Downed bear used to make kids aware

A bear that was destroyed in Cranbrook on October 12 was turned into a mobile classroom for local schools.

Conservation Officer Jeff Scott shows a recently killed bear to a class of schoolchildren at Gordon Terrace Elementary on Friday

A bear that was destroyed by conservation officers turned into a mobile learning opportunity for Gordon Terrace Elementary students on October 12.

Shaunna McInnis, co-ordinator of East Kootenay Wildlife Aware, said the bear was shot and then taken to the school where she happened to be teaching Wildlife Aware to the kindergarten and Grade 1 students. While it was sad to see the bear having to be put down, McInnis said the students got a unique classroom experience.

“It was a really awesome opportunity,” she said.

The students were given the option of sitting out the field lesson, but McInnis said all opted in. The downed bear brought up many great questions and interest from the students, and it steeled their drive to do something about it.

“The kids I talked to after were really keen to know how to prevent it,” she said. “It was an awesome learning opportunity.”

There are only a few more weeks before the bears head to hibernate for the winter, but conservation officers are seeing their calls to deal with wayward bruins spike. CO Joe Caravetta said there is a weak berry crop this year that is sending bears into town, providing for more human/bear conflict.

“There’s been an increase in the number of bears around the peripheral areas of Cranbrook,” he said.

While Caravetta couldn’t confirm how many bear incidents himself and his fellow officers have attended to, he said there’s definitely a higher average.

However the solution to keep bears from having to be destroyed is short and sweet, just like the berry crop this year: “No attractants, no bears,” Caravetta said. “It’s a simple concept.”

“We’re really asking people to be extra dilligent,” he continued.

That means residents need to make sure their garbage, fruit trees and pet food are all secured and not left out for bears to get into. There isn’t much time before the bears head to their dens for the winter to hibernate, and Caravetta hopes humans and bears can get along until then.

“The bears are within a couple weeks of hibernating,” he said. “I know garbage has to be put out but we’re asking that they not put it out the night before.”

COs do not destroy bears unless it’s absolutely necessary, as it was on October 12 when the bear wandered into a local yard near Parkland Middle School.

Caravetta said COs were called recently when a Grizzly Bear was lurking on the edge of Cranbrook. That bear moved along on its own but was closely monitored by COs until the situation dissipated.

McInnis said there’s been significant activity in the Jim Smith Lake area, and they also remain around T.M. Roberts and Gordon Terrace elementary schools and in the Community Forest.

Caravetta said bears that show unusual behaviour like being active in the middle of town in the middle of the day are a safety risk.

“We’re destroying bears that are showing aggression and showing abnormal bear behaviour,” he said.

It’s been a busy season for bear calls, but Caravetta stopped short of calling it an abnormal year.

“It’s higher than average,” he said. “It’s not insane crazy.”

Living in Cranbrook, Caravetta said bear sightings happen all the time but with the right preparation conflicts can be avoided.

“Remove attractants. It’s not uncommon to see bears – we live in bear country.”

Bears that are hanging around and not moving on after attractants have been removed should be reported to the CO line at 1-877-952-7277.

“There’s an expectation that the public needs to do things themselves to prevent the bears from hanging around,” Caravetta said.

McInnis will be doing a free Wildlife Aware presentation for the public on October 24 at the Manual Training School at 7 p.m. The presentation will discuss deer and bears. For more information on East Kootenay Wildlife Aware visit their Facebook page or to request a presentation, call McInnis at (250) 520-0411.

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