Five black bears were destroyed by conservation officers near Wiltse Elementary School on Thursday afternoon in Pentiction.
Zoe Kirk, wildsafe BC community coordinator, said conservative officers were forced to kill the bears after they were seen roaming the neighbourhood and at least one of them may have charged a teenager.
“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.”
Prior to shooting the bears she said conservation officers called the RCMP and the school was locked down to ensure the public was safe.
“When you are a CO you have a matrix you have to follow and of course community safety is number one,” said Kirk. “These bears were loitering, they were close by the school and they were all together, which is uncharacteristic for bears.”
She said it appeared the bears had gotten into people’s garbage in the area and were no longer afraid of humans.
“Apparently they were going from house to house to house,” said Kirk, adding the bears don’t appear to be a family unit.
An interview request to the Conservation Officer Service was not immediately returned.
It’s the second time a group of bears has been been shot in the Okanagan in the past week-and-a-half.
On Oct. 14, 15 and 16 conservation officers were forced to kill six food-condition bears near Okanagan Lake Resort.
In that case a West Kelowna business was criminally charged under the Wildlife Act and a dangerous wildlife protection order was issued. The Conservation Officer Service refused to name the business.
In an ironic twist, just as conservation officers were destorying the five bears in Penticton, down the road in Naramata the community was being recognized by the province as a “bear smart” community.
Over the past five years Naramata has dramatically reduced the number of human-wildlife conflicts thanks to bear-resistant garbage carts, bylaws restricting when residents can put out their garbage out and a grass-roots education program.
“It’s a very rude awakening and a reminder that here we are in one community celebrating the fact that the community has pulled together, manages their attracts and learns to live with bears and then just down the road it can be a different story.”