Archive for August, 2007

Sharing your world with bears

August 27, 2007

We have come to expect strong alternate opinions on problem wildlife management when it happens in urban areas. There is always a strong and vocal contingent who are appalled when a problem animal is killed by conservation officers. If it is a bear, they inevitably argue that the animal should be trapped and relocated rather than being shot.

I wouldn’t normally think of a community like Ocean Falls, on the central B.C. coast having those same problems. But their situation is even more complex.

Ocean Falls’ problem with bears isn’t the occasional one that wanders into town and decides that foraging through the human garbage is the easy life. Their problem is that they are smack dab in the middle of bear country with an old townsite that is overgrown with berry bushes and has a salmon spawning river nearby.

There are obviously mixed feelings within the community regarding the bears and how they should be handled.

Even within our community the issue of bears is contentious. One local went to jail for 8 months for assaulting someone else from the community for shooting a bear on his property. The bear was a trouble free and welcome regular guest on his property and in the berry patch next door. Up until this point the community mostly dealt with bear problems on its own without conservation officers becoming directly involved. Because of the animosity created over this unfortunate incident local people capable of dealing with problem bears became hesitant to take on the responsibility and subsequently conservation officers took direct responsibility.

But there were problems with bringing the COs to do the work as well.

The times the conservation officers were here they proceeded to kill all the bears in the vicinity. The number of bears killed on their last trip varies according to who you talk to, the officer involved says 12 bears, others say 18 to 35. No one went to jail on this occasion but the officers created such animosity with their methods and interaction with the community that people eventually stalked them to warn off the bears.

Once you bring in the COs and tell them you want them to solve your bear problem they have only one viable solution. You shoot the obvious bears and it sounds as though there were lots of obvious bears in Ocean Falls. If they try to pick and choose and someone gets chewed by a bear that they left standing, where does the liability lie?

But the crux of this story turns out to be a couple of orphaned cubs that were in their second year of hanging around the townsite, one of which was shot by COs when they were called in a second time to deal with problem bears.

From my point of view, this is the silly part of the story.

Ironically a few hours after the cub was shot and just as the float plane with the officers on board flew past my house on its way out of town the surviving cub came onto my property. For the first time I felt it was a threat to me as it was ill tempered and aggressive. I would be to if my twin had just been shot. I hope this bear settles down again or it to will need to be shot. If the issue arises hopefully we can deal with it from within the community.

These cubs were probably guaranteed to become a problem in the community as they never were “bush” bears. And the writer’s comment about the agressiveness of the remaining cub seems to confirm that. But it was aggressive because the other cub was shot? Give me a break.

I don’t know what the solution is for the Ocean Falls’ community when it comes to their bear problems. No matter what the writer says they could probably use a better system to control the accessibility of their local garbage. Regardless of the draw that the salmon resource and the berry patches have in bringing bears into the area, local garbage is just going to exacerbate the problem.

Before this situation turned ugly, during my discussions with the officers they agreed that someone local who was licensed for firearms could deal with bears that were deemed a danger to the community as long as the Conservation Office was informed.

But that might not be a solution either as it sounds as if the community is quite polarized on the issue and any individual who takes on the role of bear control will no doubt end up being the villain.

The final paragraph in the posting leaves one with the feeling that the whole issue has gone beyond community safety and problem animals.

Unfortunately the common use of genocidal brute force to protect *our* territory is not restricted to Ocean Falls or towards other species. The aggressive military control of humans felt to be a threat to other human communities both historically and in the present day glaringly displays the deplorable moral state of humanity. I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that attempting to kill all perceived threats just increases the scope of the problem. If we hope to survive as a species we need to do better.

We are now into management of problem wildlife through philosophy. That will work until someone gets chewed.


Problem wildlife and the urban factor

August 23, 2007

I don’t envy Conservation Officers their job these days. With the expanding bear population and urban sprawl they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to dealing with problem wildlife.

A case in point is the recent shooting of an aggressive black bear in North Vancouver.

RCMP in North Vancouver say a black bear that had lost its fear of humans was killed Friday after it began charging pedestrians and an officers called to the scene.

Const. Michael McLaughlin said an officer shot the two-to-three-year-old male bear near a playground after it charged her.

The animal retreated injured into the bush where it was later killed by a conservation officer.

Now that sounds like a reasonable scenario to me. You have a habituated bear that shows definite aggressive tendencies and the decision is made by an RCMP officer to protect the public by killing it.

Even though the bear was injured, says Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Kate Thompson, it charged the conservation officer as well.

Thompson said the initial call to police came after the animal had chased a woman out of a park.

She said the bear did have a tag that had been placed on it previously by officers.

“It had already been moved this year,” she said. “Far too habituated (to humans) unfortunately.”

Thompson said the bear was found in a heavily populated residential area.

Even after being shot the first time the bear charged the CO who went in after it. It had already been trapped and transplanted from another area as being a problem and it had come back into a residential area. The RCMP and the CO Service had run out of options at that point. Their mandate became the need to protect the public.

But did the RCMP and the CO Service get any thanks for their actions? Not a chance.

A botched attempt to put down a two-year-old black bear, similar to the one pictured, in North Vancouver has conservationists clamouring for better bear training for North Shore RCMP.

My first issue with this article is that by definition, I don’t think that the people complaining were ‘conservationists’. Environmentalists maybe or just some misguided urban souls who think that all that poor little bear needed was a hug  to alleviate his hostility.

However they may have a point in that the RCMP really aren’t trained to handle problem wildlife issues. I don’t know what they used in their initial attempt to kill this bear, but if they used a sidearm that probably explained why they only wounded it on the first encounter. A 9 mm really isn’t going to cut it in a situation like that. Though I suspect that it wouldn’t have made much difference if the officer had killed the bear stone-cold dead with one shot. There would still have been an uproar because they killed the bear rather than giving it a stern talking to and sending it on its way chastened but reformed.

However if the officers hadn’t taken action and someone had been mauled or God forbid a child was killed you know damned well who would have been villified for not taking action.

It’s a weird world we live in today.

Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival

August 20, 2007

I just spent the weekend at the 15th annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. This is my 5th consecutive year attending and I only regret that I didn’t start going there earlier.

It was another good year and the crowd on Saturday seemed bigger to me than any of the previous years that I have attended. Sunday was much lighter with it being cool and rainy – the first time they have had rain on the weekend since I started attending. Regardless, it was a great venue again.

It amazes me to see the talent that is displayed every year. Musicians and singers that most people have never heard of, but who are so talented and skilled at what they do. 

I was sitting there listening to a workshop the first thing on Sunday morning and was struck by how much they enjoyed doing, what is to them, their ‘job’. I had the distinct feeling that I had wasted my life. While I was training and working in the corporate world they were learning how to create beauty. It seems to me that there are those who are capable of creating this beauty and the rest of us are merely an audience.

Blogger respect

August 20, 2007

I started this blog less than a year ago and I have developed a profound respect for those who blog intelligently on a daily basis.

I made my last post on July 20th, got busy and fell off the wagon. It has been hard to get back at it, although I am being driven by the guilt factor.