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Islanders form ‘Bear Aware’ group to put an end to bear killings

B.C. conservation officers were forced to kill 460 black bears in the first nine months of 2023

Over the past year in Lake Cowichan black bears have made their way under decks and even tip-toed into gas stations.

A group of concerned Lake Cowichan citizens who have decided not to grin and bear the killing of bears due to human and bear conflict formed the Lake Cowichan Bear Aware Association in October 2023 and have been meeting regularly since last November.

READ MORE: Bear tiptoes into Tiptons in Lake Cowichan on Thanksgiving morning

The association was founded by member Jaana Boren. She was inspired by posts that exploded online regarding residents being concerned about bears getting into garbage and destroying property, and people fearful for their children, but by far most were worried that the bears were being killed by conservation officers.

According to group members traps were being set up all over town, while some upset residents were springing them, pitting neighbour against neighbour. Boren started a group chat called ‘Save Our Bears’, and from the initial meeting an executive council was formed to find a solution to the trapping and killing of bears in the area.

“Our desired outcome is to stop the killing of the black bears of the Cowichan Lake area, to promote education, and to see better waste management be a reality for our town,” said Boren. “We can become better ‘bear aware’ by taking the time to learn about them, their nature and why they’re coming into our neighbourhoods.

“There is a saying that ‘A fed bear is a dead bear’ and that statement proves itself to be factual over and over again. Bears have an incredibly strong sense of smell, and being omnivorous, such as we are too, they follow their noses right into our habitations.

“They are typically large animals and require a steady diet, so they are always looking for food. We should also understand that bears are not naturally aggressive — in fact, they would rather avoid human interaction altogether. If we care about our wildlife, we should also care enough to learn the ways in which we can best co-exist with them safely, for the sake of both our species.”

According to Discover Vancouver Island there are more than 7,000 bears living on the Island and B.C. Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) statistics show that officers killed 460 black bears across B.C. in the first nine months of 2023, which was the highest number in more than a decade.

The new Lake Cowichan group wants to monitor waste management and bear activity throughout the Cowichan Lake area. It is already tagging and papering neighbourhoods with information, partnering with local established organizations such as the gleaners and trailblazers, pursuing bear den habitat development, and advocating for better waste management.

“It’s not an easy task developing a society with limited funding and resources, but we have the support of citizens, businesses, local politicians, conservation officers and bear aware groups around the province who have gone before us and it’s driving us forward and helping make it happen,” said Boren.

About the Author: Chadd Cawson

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