For the past two weeks, people travelling the Atlin Road between kilometre 18 and 21 have been treated to a rare spectacle – grizzly bears – a sow with three small cubs and a young male, maybe three or four years old, digging and eating roots in the ditches along the highway.
Many people have stopped to take pictures of them and they dutifully obliged by posing for the photographers.
Others have just stopped to watch these beautiful beasts go about storing some fat for the long winter ahead.
Both the male and the female with three cubs have passed through my hayfields and, at times, have stopped to gambol with the Canada Geese that frequent the fields at this time of year.
This all came to a sorry end for the male grizzly at approximately 7:30 p.m. Sunday last.
Two shots rang out. My horses immediately gathered together and looked to the southeast.
My wife and I, fearing the worst for the male but also being concerned about the female and three cubs, drove approximately a kilometre south where we found a grey Toyota pickup, with Yukon plates, parked on the west
side of the highway facing north with a female and a young boy inside.
I told her I was concerned about the bears along this stretch of road and expressed concern for the female and the three cubs. She advised that it was not the sow with the cubs and that the boys were in the bush on the
east side of the highway.
I returned home after confirming that the sow and three cubs were in the ditch near kilometre 18 and called the conservation number and was advised that they would contact the conservation officer on call.
On Monday morning, not having heard from the game branch, Richard Hartmier, who had been filming the bears last Saturday, and I went to the scene of the shooting.
The remains of the bear, minus the hide, head, paws and hindquarters, were found in the bush less than 30 metres from the shoulder of the road.
From a small deposit of fresh bear scat at the edge of the ditch it would appear that the bear managed to go about nine metres before he succumbed to his wounds.
At 3:25 p.m. on Monday, September 14, after several attempts to contact the game branch, I was informed by conservation officer Arron Koos-Young that the bear was a legally harvested animal, and that hunters are
permitted to shoot from the ditches as long as they do not shoot along or across the travelled portion of the highway. This, I was informed, is what is written in the Yukon Wildlife Act.
Now that is an act with a lot of teeth!
My understanding of a highway has always been the travelled portion of the roadway and the ditch on either side. Not so, I was informed.
Game, whether it be grizzly bears or moose viewed along the highways and byways of Yukon, does more for tourism, than does any animal destroyed along the highways for the express purpose of turning its hide, head and
claws into a rug.
The great white hunters managed to bag a grizzly bear on the side of the highway. Hardly a hunt. The bear was intent on putting on a little fat for winter and had become accustomed to people watching him from their
vehicles and taking his picture.
Unfortunately, that was his fatal mistake. His capital crime was eating roots and trusting people.
I truly am disgusted.
Ken C. Gabb