Residents living in the Silver Valley community of Maple Ridge say it’s like having a free subscription to the Nature Channel.
This time of year, bear sightings are a daily occurrence often caught on camera.
“We love living here, and we knew (when) moving here we were moving into the wilderness,” resident Leah Cooke said.
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But in recent weeks, those bear sightings have been followed by the sound of gunshots.
The B.C. Conservation Officers Service (BCCOS) confirmed that it was forced to euthanize three bears in the area since May 3.
This week, another three bears were captured but eventually relocated a short distance away after closer examination found the bears were not “habituated or food conditioned.”
After losing six bears in a short period of time, residents are urging the BCCOS to take a “less aggressive” approach. Some are demanding conservation officers adopt a no-kill mandate for the area.
“B.C. Conservation, let’s take a step back here,” resident Susan Vanders said. “We have a symptom here which is the killing of the bears. We need to find the cause.”
In a statement, the BCCOS said “relocation is not a viable option for high-conflict bears,” adding a no-kill mandate isn’t appropriate for all of B.C.
“While the COS puts considerable effort into preventing and responding to bear conflicts, including the use of non-lethal response options where appropriate, it does not follow a no kill mandate in any communities across the province,” the service said.
“The Conservation Officer Service assesses and responds to wildlife conflicts based on the level of conflict and risk to public safety in each case.”
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Residents are hoping a compromise can be found by getting representatives of WildSafeBC, BCCOS, the City of Maple Ridge and the Silver Valley community together at a public event planned for June 2.
Event organizers admit that better public education and awareness is needed to help protect the bears.
They acknowledge items like garbage put out the night before, unwashed recycling bins and bird feeders are attractants.
“We knew what we were getting into when we moved into the bush,” said Cooke. “We have to care for these animals.”
Despite having many videos of bears wandering and playing in the green space around them, a new video has been making the rounds within the Silver Valley community groups.
The video, captured in the area last week, shows a conservation officer loading the body of a dead bear onto a truck.
“It’s just like your heart just dies. It’s just the most wrenching thing you can imagine,” Vanders said.