Residents of North Vancouver are no strangers to bears to their backyards, but they are also no strangers to seeing those bears euthanized if they become regular visitors.
On Friday afternoon, residents held a rally and memorial for a black bear named Plum, the latest bear to be killed in the area.
The North Shore Black Bear Society said she was very well-known in the area and was named because she loved to eat fruit.
Plum could be seen often in the Deep Cove area, but was always willing to move on and didn’t seem to want to bother any people or engage with anyone, residents said.
But after someone called the Conservation Officer Service earlier this week, officers came and Plum was euthanized.
Local resident and photographer Nancy Bleck said she rushed to the area, along with four other women, to try to stop the officers from shooting the bear, but they were too late.
“They fired three shots, while Plum was resting, asleep,” she said.
“We were overcome by shock, anger, sadness because we knew Plum personally. We knew her character, we knew her personality.”
Plum always kept her distance, Bleck said, adding she thinks the decision to kill her was “excessive.”
“Perhaps it was a scared resident, perhaps it was a misunderstanding of her curiosity and gestures?” Bleck said.
“I really firmly believe that all that needed to happen was a firm voice and some noise and she would be on her way.
“We really felt we failed her.”
Conservation officer Murray Smith said despite public perception, a very low number of calls to officials actually result in a decision to euthanize a bear.
This year in Metro Vancouver, the Conservation Officer Service has received about 3,400 calls and euthanized 34 bears.
“We do lots of things besides go out and shoot a bear,” Smith told Global News. “We start with a phone call and we say ‘hey, here’s some advice.’ And the next thing we do is we refer to our municipal partners.
“And then we do enforcement. So if you can’t look after your garbage or your attractants, you’re going to be fined.”
Smith said an officer attends when there is a human safety issue.
Officers had to euthanize Plum because she was trying to get into a house and pushing on a window, Smith said.
He added that is was not OK that Plum was eating fruit off residents’ trees because the bear was too close to a school and a daycare and she was not scared of people.
“We can’t take the chance,” he said.
“The more we leave bears in our communities that are hanging around people, the greater chance we have of some sort of attack or contact being made,” Smith added.
In early August, a black bear named Huckleberry was killed after North Shore residents admitted they left food out for him so they could take photos and videos.
Bleck said she wanted the memorial and rally to be a chance for residents to express their anger and sadness and to heal.
“We have to be careful not to finger point to the conservation officers but recognize that this is part of a much bigger problem and we are the problem, every single one of us,” Bleck said.
An elder from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation also attended the memorial.
“We need to follow the lead of Indigenous leaders who have taken care of this land far before we ever planted our feet here,” Bleck added.
“It is not up to us who gets to decide who gets killed today and who doesn’t… She had every right to be here, just as much as we do.”
Smith said it’s important to remember as residents not to leave attractants like garbage out for the bears.
Last month on the North Shore, many residents had put their garbage out the night before pick-up, even though that is against the bylaws.
“Conservation officers are blamed for killing the bear,” Smith said. “We didn’t kill the bear. The previous month where everybody left their attractants out, that’s where the accountability has to be.
“If people want to make a difference, they have to get engaged in their community.”