Aaron Koss-Young, human-wildlife conflict prevention officer with Environment Yukon, speaks to media during a press briefing on Nov. 28. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

63 bears killed in the Yukon in 2017

Leading causes for human-bear conflicts are attracts like improperly stored garbage and food

An estimated 63 bears were killed in the Yukon in 2017, a new record high for the territory.

That number was among the statistics Environment Yukon presented to the media at a technical briefing Nov. 28. Environment Yukon spokesperson Roxanne Stasyszyn emphasized that the numbers were estimates and that data for 2017 is still being collected and analyzed.

Of the 63 bears, 39 were killed by conservation officers while the remaining 24 were killed by members of the public in defence of life or property. Another 91 bears “moved on” from encounters, while another 10 were relocated by conservation officers.

Although putting down a bear is always seen as a last resort, relocating an animal is not an ideal situation either, human-wildlife conflict prevention officer Aaron Koss-Young said.

“It’s not the happily-ever-after story and it’s not the best outcome for the bear. The best outcome is prevention,” Koss-Young said.

“If we can prevent that bear from getting into conflict in the first place, it’s much better. It’s like us getting a cavity. If we can prevent that cavity, we can prevent that pain to ourselves and that discomfort to ourselves, and it’s the same for a bear.”

When a bear is relocated, Koss-Young explained, it’s dropped into a “hostile environment” which may not bode well for its survival.

“We can take a bear and bring it 100 kilometres away, (but) we’re dropping it into an area where it’s no longer familiar with its environment, it’s no longer familiar with where its food sources are and it’s potentially competing against larger, more aggressive bears that may kill it, and we don’t know what’s happening to those bears,” he said.

“It’s not the outcome we want. We want to prevent bears from getting into conflict in the first place so we don’t have to spend time and resources relocating or translocating bears that may ultimately result in that bear’s death anyway. So it’s not the outcome we’re after at all. Simply deterring is the best course of action.”

According to the bear statistics, human-made attractants — improperly stored garbage and food and improperly secured chicken coops and pets — remain the leading causes for human-bear conflicts. Along with educational campaigns, WildWise executive director Heather Ashthorn and City of Whitehorse water and waste services manager Geoff Quinsey told media they’re partaking in cross-jurisdictional surveys to see if there are tools being used in other places that can be adapted in the Yukon.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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