Bear tracking goes digital

People might be smarter than the average bear, but they're still slow learners. Human-bear conflicts are a perennial problem in Whitehorse, said conservation officer Ken Knutson.

People might be smarter than the average bear, but they’re still slow learners.

Human-bear conflicts are a perennial problem in Whitehorse, said conservation officer Ken Knutson.

“For years now, we’ve been trying to get the bear message out,” he said. “But we just feel that we’ve not been getting a lot of traction with the public, sometimes.”

It’s not for lack of effort.

“We put radio spots on every year, we put out a lot of published material, and we’re still getting calls for the same thing all the time, which is, “There’s a bear in my garbage, in my yard.”

So now they’re trying something new.

Environment Yukon has set up an online map of human-bear conflicts.

It’s modeled after one that the City of Kamloops put up last year.

After the map went up, Kamloops saw a drop in the number of human-bear conflicts.

Those results were only anecdotal but seemed promising, said Knutson.

“We thought, ‘If they’re having success down there, why don’t we try it here?’” he said.

Since the map went online two weeks ago, it’s received almost 800 hits.

Considering they’re just making the map public now, that’s pretty remarkable,” said Knutson,

It’s not surprising that bears are a popular subject in Whitehorse.

There’s already been about 30 bear-human conflicts reported in and around town, compared to 66 for all of last year.

“The way things are shaping up is similar to last year, which was quite an intensive bear year for us,” said Knutson.

So far, conservation officers have relocated four bears and killed three in the Whitehorse area. Members of the public killed another two.

“It’s not something we do lightly,” said Knutson. “We make a very concerted effort not to destroy bears.

“If we can intervene early on, then we’ll move the bear.”

Conservation officers relocate far more than they kill but relocating them is still far from ideal.

“What we’re doing when we relocate a bear is just moving a problem, sometimes,” said Knutson.

Moving a bear into another bear’s area can cause conflict in the wild, and if the bear tries to return to its home range, which happens, it can be tough on the animal’s health.

“They get in bad condition, they get distracted by other human activity, and we end up dealing with it somewhere else,” said Knutson. “The best thing is to just prevent it from happening in the first place.”

And that’s not hard to do. It’s simply a matter of people taking a little bit of responsibility in managing attractants, said Knutson.

Garbage and compost bins should be kept in a garage or shed, pet food should not be left out, and barbecues should be kept clean.

But sometimes the attractants can be difficult to control.

“We had one bear on the weekend that was actually clawing the siding off a house,” said Knutson.

It turned out that the house had an ant infestation, which was what the bear was after.

“Bears are opportunistic feeders,” said Knutson. “That’s how they evolved, to investigate any kind of food stuffs.”

With such a short time to put on fat for winter, nutrient-rich human garbage can be irresistible to a bear.

If they get a little bit of food they can quickly become very hard to deter, said Knutson.

“That bear that was in the trash can out at the rest stop, I shot him with a rubber slug twice and he came back,” he said.

While that bear was relocated, not all of them are so lucky.

“The more the public can do to actually help alleviate this problem with bears, the more it’s going to help us,” said Knutson.

Contact Josh Kerr at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read