Two male grizzly bears were euthanized on Friday, Sept. 28, for preying on livestock at a ranch on Telegraph Road, south of the Town of Vanderhoof.
Using leg snares hidden inside a dead cow carcass, conservation officers captured the problematic bears that together killed and consumed two cows and one pig. Two missing cattle are also being attributed to the same boars, one of which weighed 771 pounds.
“Just huge. It blew us away,” said Vanderhoof conservation officer Cam Hill, referring to the bear’s size.
Each year about half a dozen livestock in the District of Vanderhoof are killed by grizzly bears, said Hill.
“I think bears are smart enough to know that if they don’t kill any livestock they’ll live a long happy life here and learn to co-exist amongst the farms, ranches and the people,” said Hill.
Vanderhoof conservation officers execute only a few snaring operations each year.
According to the accounts of area farmers, ranchers and other reliable sources who work in the outdoors, Hill estimates, though unofficially, that local grizzly bear numbers are as healthy as ever and perhaps rising.
“Populations are at an unprecedented high,” he said.
In correlation with the increased presence of grizzlies in the region, Hill believes more people, especially those who work or play in the wild, should educate themselves on bear encounters by taking an awareness course or visiting the website of the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to learn life-saving tactics.
Although grizzly bears are occasionally blamed for killing a cow, more elusive predators, such as wolves and cougars, with similarly voracious appetites are also known to be roaming the same territory.
Late last month, rumors of cougar sightings on Reid Drive were made known to Hill by at least one second-hand witness. Because the alleged sightings were more than a week old at the time of being reported, Hill said the cougar might have already travelled five to 10 kilometres away from Vanderhoof.
Even if the Reid Drive sightings were verifiable, unless the cougar was acting aggressively, exhibiting a propensity to eat cats and dogs, or showed no interest in leaving a pullulated area, conservation officers probably would have preferred to let the animal leave on its own terms, explained Hill.
“Ninety-nine per cent of the time, that’s what happens,” he said.
Twice in the past two years Hill has followed up on reports of alleged cougar sightings, only to find the paw prints of a house cat at the scene.
Nonetheless, Hill says adult cougars, which typically eat a deer-sized animal every seven days, pass through the district from time to time.
Curtis Loewen, whose home on Reid Drive overlooks a field of tall grass and thick brush, has heard about the alleged sightings and expressed a modest degree of concern for the safety of his children and his dogs.
“We’ll be a little more careful, but animals down here isn’t anything new. We’ve had moose, deer and bears,” said Loewen.
Indeed. After verifying reports that a “very large bear” was hanging around Reid Drive, Vanderhoof conservation officers attended the area to rig a live trap, one that could potentially catch a cougar instead, should one be lurking, said Hill.
“If there was one there – and that’s a big if – they might have been looking for a house cat, a dog, an easy meal,” he said.
“They’re not just going to hang around if they’re not getting something to eat.”
Historical records indicate that only five human fatalities are known to have been caused by cougars in B.C., with one or two cougar-related injuries occurring in the province each year.
Should you encounter a cougar, act aggressively, talk in a deep, confident tone, wave a stick, a jacket or another item over your head and slowly back out of the area. Don’t turn and run, said Hill.
For more information about encounters with cougars, bears and other wildlife, Hill suggests visiting the MOE website.
To report sightings of dangerous wild animals, call the Conservation Officer Service of Vanderhoof immediately at (877) 952-7277.