Burton residents Sterling and Margaret Simpson came home from spending the long weekend away to find a handful of their turkeys and chickens had been killed.
Reports had been circulating around town that a grizzly sow with three cubs had been roaming about, looking for food, and they had found their way to the penned fowl. Dixie, their fearless Great Pyrenees, tangled with the bears and was injured but survived a swat from one of the bears.
“Tuesday morning we called Conservation and they came out and set the traps the next night,” Sterling told the Arrow Lakes News. At 7 p.m. the traps were set and by 9 p.m., there was one bear in a trap already.
The next morning, the mother bear and one cub were in the traps, and the Conservation Officers were able to tranquilize the other two with darts.
“It was almost textbook,” said Sterling, who was happy to see the bears taken into custody rather than shot or wounded. “The last thing we want is a wounded bear wandering around.”
Arnold deBoon, Conservation Officer Sergeant for the West Kootenay Zone, was also glad to get the bears transported away from Burton and back to their home.
“We ear-tagged the mother and relocated them in the same ecosystem they were caught, at a distance from Burton,” he said.
Because they were captured late in October, the decision was made after consulting with bear researchers to release the family back in their home territory near their winter den.
At this point in the season, the Officers are hoping the sow will head to her chosen denning site with her cubs. Of course, there’s no guarantee, and there is a chance they could come back, but it likely won’t be this year before the snow hits the ground, said deBoon.
When bears’ predation is on larger livestock like sheep or goats, it’s often a different story.
“They develop a taste for it, and more importantly they see they’re capable of doing it,” the Officer explained. “We do our best to give them a chance.”
But if the bears become a significant threat to humans, the decision to destroy them has to be made, a decision that doesn’t make anyone happy, said deBoon.
Fortunately in this case, capturing the grizzly sow and cubs was quick and easy, and the entire family will be back in their habitat and able to get ready for hibernation back in their den.