Downtown Vancouver bear lucky to be alive

Hitchhiking bear released into Squamish Valley, escapes common fate

The black bear that hitched a ride to downtown Vancouver in a garbage truck Monday got a one-way ticket to Squamish and a new lease on life Tuesday.

Conservation Officer Alex Desjardins said the male, between one and two-and-a-half years-old, originated on the North Shore but was healthy enough to be released in the Squamish Valley near a salmon-bearing stream where fish are still running.

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"We hope he feeds for a week or two, gets even fatter and finds a denning spot," Desjardins said.

"When we euthanize an animal we're very open about it, but in this case the bear was a perfect candidate for relocation."

Desjardins said the bear's inadvertent pickup in a North Vancouver dumpster indicated it was attracted to plucking human food scraps instead of hunting and gathering in the wild.

"To help his chances of survival we don't want to release him back in an area where he can easily access that food and be enticed to resuming his habits," he said.

Desjardins said bear sightings peaked in October. A wet spring meant less berry production, causing bears to venture further down mountains to satisfy their hunger. As for Monday's so-called "urban ursus," Desjardins said the animal could venture back to the North Shore.

"They're very smart animals and they can travel great distances," he said. "I've relocated bears 150 kilometres and they came back within a few days."

From April to September, there were 559 black bears destroyed across the province, while 25 were relocated and 13 cubs sent to wildlife recovery centres.

Reports obtained via Freedom of Information show varying outcomes of bear sightings.

On June 8, a trapped and tagged bear was released at the Brandywine Creek Forest Service Road near Squamish. On June 11, a healthy two-year-old bear was trapped at Mount Currie and tranquilized. Because it had a history of property damage, it was later put to death with "one slug to central nervous system" at a Pemberton logging road. The carcass was taken to Squamish for disposal in a landfill.

Conservation Officers sometimes euthanize wild animals that are emaciated or diseased. Many reports do not mention how or where carcasses are disposed. Some indicate carcasses are driven to a logging road and left as carrion-a food source for other animals. An April 8 report said the carcass of a habituated bear was given to a member of the T'sawout First Nation near Victoria. On May 7, the carcass of a sow put to death on the Sunshine Coast was delivered for skinning and processing before it was put up for auction.

2010goldrush@gmail.com

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