It was with some sadness and a great deal of anger and frustration that I read of the conservation officers’ shooting of the two young grizzly bears at the Kitimat bridge.
The more I had heard about these bears, the more I feared – and predicted – what the inevitable response to their presence would be. Whenever there is a confrontation between bears and humans, ultimately the bears lose.
Accurate population numbers of the grizzly bears in BC are hard to come by. Government figures are as high as 16,000, but since this estimate is based on available territory, not on any real survey, many people feel the number is less than half that. Either way, we are privileged to live in an area that is one of the last refuges of these magnificent creatures. The only grizzly bear you will find in California is on the state flag: all the others have been exterminated.
I laughed in 2006 when I heard that authorities had shot “Bruno,” the first European brown bear – essentially a grizzly bear – in Germany in 170 years, because he was deemed a threat to humans. Now, I don’t feel so smug. At this rate, soon the only bears we will see will be in a glass case like “Gimpy” and the grizzlies in the Smithers airport and Houston tourist centre.
It’s all very well to blame the deaths of these two bears on the idiots who fed them at the campsite, or who caused traffic problems filming them, but public response to their presence was entirely predictable weeks ago, as was the sad result. What steps did the conservation officers take before this situation reached a crisis point? Were tickets handed out, did they attempt to scare the bears away, was there any effort made to trap and move the bears? If not, why not?
Have we become so blasé about living in bear country as we do in the North, that we are not willing to treat it and its inhabitants with the respect they deserve? Surely, there is a better response available than shooting every “problem” bear, when the real problem is people.