A View Royal neighbourhood is mourning the loss of a mother bear after Conservation Officer Service members were forced to euthanize it to ensure public safety.
Now they are calling for change to prevent the incident from repeating itself.
After receiving multiple reports of the bear getting into “insecure attractants” around Thetis Lake Regional Park and climbing onto residential porches to access food over the past month, officers trapped and euthanized the bear Friday (June 23).
In an emailed statement, the service said the bear had previously been relocated from a residential area of Langford in 2019, and bears which show food-conditioned behaviour and a lack of fear of humans cannot be rehabilitated “as the risk to public safety is too great.”
Three black bear cubs were located nearby and were tranquillized and relocated to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington for further assessment.
Residents in the area – including 15-year-old Alaina Miller, who set up a memorial for the bear – are now left wondering why such extreme measures were necessary.
“It was absolutely devastating. I felt so sad and felt like nobody was really mourning her, and I should put something up to properly send off her spirit and serve as a reminder this is her home and her life,” said Miller. “It’s insane actually to think people thought it was such a problem, and such a danger, even though it had never attacked anyone. It was really surprising people would go to such lengths to ruin her life.”
Miller said that beyond simply helping people remember the bear itself, she hopes her memorial will help her neighbours remember they live in a wildlife area, and that it is important to follow best practises when it comes to human-wildlife interactions.
Neighbour Liz Williams, who is a PhD candidate studying human-animal relations at the University of Victoria, said it came as no surprise to her a bear family was living in the area given it is a wildlife refuge so close to residential areas.
“This is just going to be a continuous problem unless we are able to ramp up our efforts to improve some of the initiatives and bylaws and community buy-in,” said Williams. “I’ve found it really promising people are really talking about this incident and are feeling really sad about what happened. I think there are a lot of opportunities here for people to organize better than they have been.”
Williams said it is important for residents living near wildlife areas to secure scent attractants like garbage and food to prevent bears and other wildlife from venturing close to humans for both the animal’s and human’s safety.
In the hopes of reinforcing that important piece of advice, Andrea Miller – Alaina’s mother – said a group of neighbours are now planning on petitioning the Town of View Royal to strengthen bylaws around securing household waste, and to install wildlife-resistant waste bins in areas near wildlife habitat. She said she also plans on organizing a door-to-door education campaign in the neighbourhood to remind residents of those best practises.