Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Photo Submitted

TROUBLE AT THE BINS – This is the type of scene that can lead to fatal consequences for Yukon bears. Garbage is one of the top attractants for wandering bruins. Photo courtesy Environment Yukon

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

EDUCATION IS KEY – Conservation officer Aaron Koss- Young is seen Tuesday with the Environment Yukon display for the Bear Facts. It’s an opportunity to examine human-bear conflicts and engage in a community-wide discussion about how to improve our practices to protect Yukon wildlife.

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Heather Ashthorn and Roxanne Stasyszyn

Season has been gruelling on bears, COs

It’s been a record-breaking season for bear kills in the territory,

By Taylor Blewett on November 29, 2017

It’s been a record-breaking season for bear kills in the territory, and Environment Yukon is crunching numbers to figure out how to best deal with human-wildlife conflict going forward.

“It’s been a tough season, this past season for both bears and conservation officers alike in Yukon,” Roxanne Stasyszyn, an Environment Yukon spokesperson, told reporters at a media briefing late Tuesday afternoon.

It wasn’t uncommon for conservation officers (COs) in the Dawson City area to respond to more than five bear calls in a single shift, Stasyszyn said.

Conservation officers destroyed 39 bears this season. Another 24 were killed by the public in defence of life and property.

That brings the total to 63 kills this year – a six-year high, according to new data provided by Environment Yukon.

These data span from 2012 to 2017. They touch on a number of indicators of human-bear conflict in the Yukon.

These include top attractants, the number and type of bears reported and how many bears are killed in the territory compared to other jurisdictions.

It’s statistics like these that Environment Yukon and WildWise Yukon are working to compile and analyze.

This is the first year of a new Environment Yukon program aimed at reducing human-wildlife conflict in the territory, and data are a key part of that goal.

WildWise Yukon has been contracted to work on the program.

“We’re already finding … out so much to help guide our decisions and our efforts,” Stasyszyn said.

Once finalized, the data will help the territorial and municipal governments determine how and where to invest their resources.

In doing so, they could potentially make changes to infrastructure like garbage carts and waste management, bylaws and enforcement and public education efforts.

“Evidence-based decision making is definitely the way to proceed here,” said Geoff Quinsey, the water and waste services manager with the City of Whitehorse.

The city is a partner in the new program.

In the meantime, Environment Yukon is relying on public awareness and education to reduce human-wildlife conflict – which by definition, can’t exist without humans, Stasyszyn pointed out.

Encouraging Yukoners to manage attractants – the leading cause of that conflict – is always a priority.

“Bears will be bears,” explained Aaron Koss-Young, a CO tasked specifically with preventing human-wildlife conflict.

“Everything that they do is driven by their sense of smell and their search for food from the time they come out of their dens in the spring til they den up in the fall.

“We’re not going to stop a bear from being attracted by the smell of bacon cooking in our houses; they’re going to smell that. It’s whether they can get a reward or not, and get it easily.

“If they can’t get it easily, they’re going to carry on.”

So it’s up to humans to manage those food sources that might attract bears, lead to their increased aggression around people and cause a public safety concern.

Garbage main attractant

Environment Yukon data show that garbage is the leading bear attractant, followed by human food and pets, both livestock and domestic.

Securing these can help avoid what Koss-Young called a conservation officer’s “last resort” – killing a bear.

The ideal outcome in a human-wildlife conflict is deterring the bear from contact with humans and human food sources and pushing it back to its natural environment.

COs go to great lengths to achieve this, according to Koss-Young, through deterrence techniques like loud noises or rubber bullets.

And sometimes it works – 91 bears moved on in the Yukon this year, according to Environment Yukon bear outcomes data.

If a bear doesn’t move on, another option is relocation. While this solution was applied to 10 bears this year, doing so isn’t ideal, Koss-Young explained.

“It’s not the happily-ever-after story, and it’s not the best outcome for the bear.”

When a bear is relocated, it’s transferred to a “hostile” and “alien” environment where it’s not familiar with food sources and might have to compete with larger, more aggressive bears that could kill the animal, he said.

Thus, the best option for humans and bears remains preventing a conflict between the two in the first place.

‘Wilderness City’

It’s a challenge in the Yukon, where even the most urban centre is known as the “Wilderness City”.

Respecting the fact that Yukoners and Yukon wildlife will likely always have to live side-by-side is important, according to Quinsey.

“There isn’t some finish line at which we can say, ‘we don’t need to work on this anymore,’” he said.

“We’re all at this table because we want the same things. We want to reduce the number of bears killed in conflict in the Yukon.”

The City of Whitehorse is providing a $3,500 grant to WildWise Yukon to conduct a study of strategies used in other jurisdictions to prevent human-wildlife conflict.

The non-profit will assess the suitability of those methods for Whitehorse, and share its findings with city council and city staff.

“We do believe that inevitably, the public will let our governments know what is important to them and put pressures in the right places,” said Heather Ashthorn, WildWise Yukon’s executive director.

“If they do think human-wildlife conflict is an important enough issue to make it a voting issue.”

Comments (11)

Up 1 Down 3

Jerry on Dec 2, 2017 at 10:35 am

Wtf did I just read?

As a first nations person I know what it feels like to not be welcome on our home land too.

Up 2 Down 0

Josey Wales on Dec 1, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Alan...clearly my point went right over your head.
You are right they usually live in the forest....seems a village represented well with idiots (not inferring you) has displaced that natural cycle.
The bear lawyers would have a few things to say in regards to the diversity forced upon them.
I personally have no issues with bears, I do however with two legged animals that roam free in these parts.
...and then there are folks like yourself telling me to chill essentially?
Yes you could be right on the diligence of M toiling away.
Unfortunately I and many others hold a view summed up as...
“We live in a zoo, a zoo with few cages.
Not all animals get along, many should be in cages...who truly is the zoo keeper? “
I feel about nefarious scumbags as seems many folks feel about bears in compost bins. More two legged animals creating carnage around here, more TLA in folks homes that do not belong there, unknown TLA or a few piling up these corpses...can we shoot them too when seen in the hood?

I know the answer is no, using that logic...we need an industry of bear whisperers to see what can be done to be more inclusive....nnnnnnnnnKay,
With the bears in their community...that we “diversified” ever so awesome like. Find out what the root cause of their lashing out might be, give them some species sensitivity re-training.

Speaking of being able to shoot bears, has the DoE tracked down the Remington 870 that was “misappropriated” and the cash? DoE...M...anyone know?
Be a bummer if they were down a tool cuz of a fool and gasp....yogi lives to reoffend.
Silly bears, reoffending is for us...the intelligent species.
Yes Alan even with bears, the tapestry gets wove.
Seems you just do not like my illustrations

...and that is OK, Josey is better read if one has been endowed with a sense of humour. again no inference you are void of said ha ha...just a fact.

Up 5 Down 0

Alan Boomer on Nov 30, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Josey, Josey Wales, please give your head a shake and have a drink of cool water, this article is about bears which have 4 legs and usually live in the forest.

But Ok, the matter you raise is very true. I think the RCMP are working pretty hard on unsolved homicides. No point going to court unless there is a good chance of convicting. And I do think almost all people are concerned about the direction this town has gone. Too much in the way of drugs and alcohol and violent crime.

Up 5 Down 2

My Opinion on Nov 29, 2017 at 11:04 pm

No BBQ's, No Smokers, No Petroleum Products, No Rubber as in hoses and snowmobile seats, No Compost, No Gardens, No grass clippings. Get a grip guys, we live here as well.

We have the City promoting composting and then only picking it up every couple of weeks. Where do you suppose it should be stored. Bear proof containers are not smell proof, but they are about 5 times as expensive.

If the Bears get in trouble then I guess they will have to learn. Oh and I guess we shouldn't have pets either. I am tired of hearing this rhetoric from these guys, just carry on.

Up 2 Down 2

My Opinion on Nov 29, 2017 at 10:56 pm

What a load of Hooey. When they show up they just shoot the Bear. This is a public relations ploy that it is not their fault but must be ours. Just deflect.

Up 4 Down 1

Roy smith on Nov 29, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Being born in the Yukon and raised most is my life in Atlin BC, it occurs to me there was very little interaction with bears in bear country. The first nations would dry their salmon on racks and rarely would a bear interfere. I am not First Nation, but maybe our “experts” could learn something. Talk to Harry Carlicks or Sylvester Jacks people, they might have a solution that hasn’t been considered by university people driven by statistics

Up 5 Down 3

jean on Nov 29, 2017 at 8:21 pm

The CoW Sustainability Department and their mandated bear-friendly compost bins shown in the picture are very much to blame for bears being killed. It can be two weeks before food scraps in the green bin are picked up. There were far fewer bears killed before they required residents to use bear friendly garbage containers. People used to use steel containers with tight fitting lids that were difficult for bears to open. What's even worse is that when it came time to order more containers from a southern supplier, they went with the same bear-friendly design. None of this is surprising since the much vaunted CoW Sustainability Department is staffed by young inexperienced people from outside, not older Yukoners who know how to deal with bears. These greenwashed posers are not really environmentalists at all.
The killing will continue, because after all, it IS sustainable as long as bears keep breeding more.

Up 1 Down 2

Dave on Nov 29, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Environment Yukon’s website states there are between 16-17,000 combined black and grizzly bears in Yukon. So 63 bears killed amounts to 0.004 of the bear population. Granted it’s not good to have to kill any nuisance bears but to read these news reports you’d think that bears were having to be shot left and right and that we’re running out of bears in the territory.

Up 0 Down 0

Josey Wales on Nov 29, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Yeah...sure has.
Been also a record human kill year too.
Bummer we have no investigating journalism asking our state actors for some updates. Instead it seems the regurgitators just wait like baby eaglets for an eventual tid bit.
Done a story on record dead bears now, do one on outstanding unsolved homicides....cold cases even.
Too newesy? Too non SJW? Too non greenwashing?
Star give your journalistic head a shake, start asking some uncomfortable questions our community is rapidly decomposing let us hold some folks to account. I like bears too, but information needs be dusted off, folks in jail, families at peace.
Seriously do a series of articles if you must, refresh the complacent memories around here...we have become conditioned to be outraged at animals kills, but seemingly “meh” on the slain citizens no longer here to speak for themselves.

Or is that too ridiculous to think folks may care about other folks slain by unknown scumbags?
Scumbags STILL in our communities........?

Up 5 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Nov 29, 2017 at 3:37 pm

The problem is people. First there are the kind who are careless with their trash and do not dispose of it sufficiently to not attract bears. And there are the other kind. The ones in power with all the rules and penalties for disobeying the rules. DO YOUR JOBS and issue the fines, file the charges that will result in a court appearance and a healthy fine for those who continue to ignore the rules. And I suggest this for all wildlife offences, such as the owner(s) of the dog that ran down the deer on the river last year which perished because of exhaustion and exposure. There is no way those dog owners should have been given a pass for their crime. We have these rules in place for a reason - start using them.

Up 5 Down 0

Politico on Nov 29, 2017 at 3:02 pm

And no people were charged with doing anything wrong when their attractants brought the bears in and the bears had to be put down. Sends a message, doesn't it.

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