Conservation officers have been forced to remove a well-known black bear and her two cubs from the city after the mom started eating out of garbage bins.
The sow and her cubs were spotted near Hamilton Boulevard in mid-June, munching on dandelions at the side of the road while cars whizzed by.
But conservation officer Ryan Hennings said the bear recently moved from leafy greens to garbage cans in her search for food. That’s a potentially dangerous behaviour, he said.
Beginning on the weekend prior to Canada Day, the officials started getting reports of a the bear going through garbage in the McIntyre, Copper Ridge and Falcon Ridge neighbourhoods.
Yesterday afternoon, officers stepped in to move the family.
Around 4 p.m. the bears were spotted in the backyard of a house in the Copper Ridge area.
The cubs were trapped up a tree and the sow was waiting and watching from the ground, Hennings said.
The sow was hit with a tranquilizer dart. One of the young cubs was captured with a net when it climbed down the tree on its own.
The two bears were then placed in a “family trap” to recover. The extra-large trap is divided down the middle so the sow can be held safely on one side but still be seen by her cubs.
When the second cub spotted his family, he climbed out of the tree and walked into the other half of the trap on his own, Hennings said.
The bears were moved outside city limits.
Hennings said the move is not anyone’s first choice, but was the right decision for both public safety and the safety of the bears.
“It’s disappointing that she moved on to garbage, and we didn’t want her cubs to learn the behaviour,” he said.
If a bear learns the habit of foraging for food in garbage cans there is a “risk of significant negative human conflict,” Hennings said, and that could lead to her having to be put down – leaving the cubs orphaned.
That said, moving her comes with its own risks. There’s no guarantee that the bears will survive.
“By moving her she’s got to establish a new home range, compete with other bears, learn the habitat. She may move back and that’s all an added stress for her,” Hennings said.
Environment Yukon is reminding the public to use a locking mechanism on garbage and compost bins or store bins inside until pick-up day.
July and early August are a particularly stressful times for bears when it comes to food, Hennings said. The spring greens are beginning to dry up but the berries aren’t ripe just yet.
All of the garbage cans knocked over in this latest incident were readily accessible near people’s homes.
The non-profit group WildWise Yukon has been trying to encourage people to used locked garbage bins.
Last year the group did a pilot project on Finch Crescent in Whitehorse. They installed 102 locks on garbage bins and compost containers. This year 50 homes were added to the project in the Wilson Drive area.
The group is also selling locks for $50. The contraption fits on the current City of Whitehorse bins and holds them shut. Users have to undo a hook and eye closure before their garbage gets picked up.
Wildwise was started in 2012. That’s the year conservation officers killed 16 bears that were deemed a safety risk, with another five killed by members of the public defending their lives or property.
For more information visit www.wildwise.ca
Contact Ashley Joannou at