A young black bear had to be killed on a residential street in downtown Chilliwack Wednesday, a conservation officer has confirmed.
The bear has been becoming more and more habituated over the past three weeks, and on Wednesday became aggressive with residents in the downtown core.
Sgt. Don Stahl, a South Fraser CO, told The Progress on Wednesday evening that the 150 lb., two-to-three year old male bear had charged at several individuals throughout the day. RCMP tried to follow him and see if he would return to the green space along the Hope Slough, as they waited for a CO to arrive on scene.
But the bear was not returning to green space, and seemed intent on exploring several residential areas.
The bear was even caught on camera along Kipp Avenue just before 2 p.m., by someone on their balcony. At that time, it was being slowly pursued by a police officer with its lights on. The bear was running west close to Stanley Avenue.
The video showed up on a Facebook page, along with countless comments about hoping the bear would make it back to the nearby greenspace. Instead, the bear made its way further into the downtown area, and was eventually shot by a conservation officer on Henderson Avenue near College Street.
Witnesses around the city updated the location of the bear until its demise near Central elementary school.
About 2:15 p.m., the police scanner mentioned a call out for a “wash down” at that intersection.
Central elementary, which was still in session, reportedly had a hold and secure while the incident took place.
Stahl says the bear made a running charge toward the school, and the CO on scene made the decision to take the bear down.
They have been watching the bear for three or four weeks, he says. It has previously been moved away from McCammon elementary, where it was spending time eating. The bear had distinctive cinnamon brown markings on its back, Stahl says.
“It was a very distinctive bear, and it had gotten very habituated,” he says.
“He was at the west end of Princess again today, and we received numerous call,” Stahl says. “Today it actually charged a couple times at people,” he added.
An aggressive teen bear is not suitable for relocation, he explains, as it wouldn’t be able to compete with older, bigger bears in the areas. Of the hundreds of bear calls they’ve received in this region this year, he says he believes this is only the second time a bear has been “dispatched.”
Conservation officers had already tried “hazing” the bear, which is pushing it back toward its natural habitat away from humans. That can work when a bear is not habituated.
He says when they’ve tried relocating these kinds of bears, at this age and size, it’s been unsuccessful because bears that are more than twice their size are very territorial. The habituated bears easily find their way back to populated areas, including campgrounds.
“It will keep coming back to town,” Stahl says. “We don’t like to do it, but we have to make safety for humans a priority.”