Conservation officers had to euthanize five bears in Penticton, B.C., last Thursday after they were sighted together going through the garbage that residents left outside.
Penticton local Heidi McHale said the bears had been “prowling her neighbourhood for several days,” reports CityNews.
“There is no need to keep [the garbage] outside. I am so upset because this was so preventable. It didn’t have to happen,” McHale said.
Conservation officer Sgt. James Zucchelli said that the bears were residing in the greenbelt next to Wiltse Elementary School and posed a significant risk to both the children and the public.
“Basically, we were put into a position where public safety had to outweigh the bears,” Zucchelli said.
Zucchelli also mentioned that the town has attempted to get the community not to leave their trash out.
“This is a situation that reflects back on the community. There was a considerable amount of garbage; it’s the garbage that’s killing these bears, not the conservation service. The service regrets what happened today, we feel for the community, we feel for the bears and we feel for the officers involved in these situations,” Zucchelli said.
According to Zoe Kirk, Wildsafe BC community coordinator, at least one of the bears had charged a teenager while roaming the community.
“For our region, this is nearly unprecedented,” said Kirk. “They couldn’t remember in 28 years if this has ever happened before that so many bears at once had to be destroyed.”
Moreover, Zucchelli said that his office had been receiving a growing number of complaints over the last week, including reports that the bears had been going on resident’s deck, and that the bears had destroyed a hot-tub cover.
Conservation officers said that the group of five bears, three adult males and two younger females (neither of which were offspring of the males), was “highly unusual.” The officers believe the bears were trying to build fat stores for hibernation and that the town offered too many attractants to ignore.
“The only thing we can surmise is that there were so many attractants around there that they were just able to be around each other and go door-to-door and get what they wanted,” Zucchelli said.