Only in British Columbia.
Published: September 22, 2010 6:00 AM
A kermode bear found in downtown Kitimat has not been destroyed but relocated due to the sole fact that it is a spirit bear.
Conservation officers picked up the kermode on Tweedsmuir Ave. Last Monday, September 13 after receiving calls of a kermode bear in the downtown area of Kitimat.
Conservation officer Blair Thin responded to the call and says the bear has now been relocated to an undisclosed remote area, but notes that if it would have been a black bear, the story would have had a different and not so pleasant ending.
“If this bear wasn’t a kermode bear [but a black bear]…it would have been destroyed, no questions about it,” says Thin.
“It had very little fear of humans and definitely associated human habitats with a food source, like fruit trees, bird feeders and berries.”
There were also reports of the bear entering people’s backyards, eating garbage and compost, displaying signs of aggressiveness, and habituated to human contact.
Thin explains that there were a number of factors that were considered, with consultations with Ministry of Environment officials in Smithers, before the final decision was made regarding the future of the bear.
“[First there’s] the rarity of the animal in the North Coast zone, I have been a CO in this area for 10 years and I’ve never ran into a kermode bear in the Kitimat area. We discussed the occurrence of kermode sightings with long-time residents, those who have lived 35 to 40 years in Kitimat, and no one had heard of a kermode sighting at all,” says Thin.
Thin also had to consider that kermode bears are protected under the wildlife act, meaning it is illegal to hunt and kill it, and also the spiritual and cultural significance of the kermode in this region, where it’s a tourist attraction and also referred to as a spirit bear.
A DNA sample of the bear was taken and its ear was tagged to keep track of the animal.
Thin also notes that if the bear ever finds its way back into a city or town and re-offends, it won’t be so lucky.
As bears are extremely active this time of year and are preparing to hibernate, Thin wants to remind the public of measures they should take to protect their homes from wild animals.
This includes securing all food attractants like bird feeders, garbage, compost, pet food and even cleaning up the barbecue of meat residue.
“I’m hoping the public heeds our advice and warnings that bears can access garbage if it’s left unsecured, the last thing I want is to go around and destroy bears that are habituated,” he says.
Kermode bears are not albinos but a subspecies of the black bear, and although they are considered rare, one in 10 black bears are born with a white coat.
The first potential sighting of this kermode in Kitimat dates back to August 30 when tourist Doug Six spotted one along the Kitimat River near the Rod and Gun Club.
“It’s unfortunate that such a rare occurrence of a kermode bear growing roots in Kitimat could not have been left in Kitimat for the pleasure of tourists and residents alike,” notes Thin.
To report any wildlife encounters or concerns call the Ministry of Environment’s 24 hour dispatch line at 1-(877)-952-7277.