Bears, chickens a lethal mix, conservation officer says

Six bears have been killed in the Whitehorse area in recent weeks after coming into conflict with humans.

Six bears have been killed in the Whitehorse area in recent weeks after coming into conflict with humans.

Two of the most recent kills — one on May 19 in Hidden Valley and one in Mount Lorne on May 22 — involved bears attracted to livestock, said conservation officer Ken Knutson.

The Hidden Valley bear entered a pen containing two goats, one of which was killed, before the bear was “destroyed for safety reasons” by conservation officers, said Knutson.

The Mount Lorne bear was lawfully shot by a property owner after it raided three other chicken coops in the area, said Knutson. The property owner lost 15 chickens.

Chickens are particularly tempting to bears, Knutson said, because they are high in fat and calories. Once a bear gets a taste for chicken it is very hard to deter them in the future which can be a death sentence for the animal, he said.

“I often say, ‘chickens kill bears,’” Knutson said. “We’ve destroyed many bears over the last five years over chickens. We have yet to see an instance of a bear that has gotten into chickens and doesn’t come back.”

The best way to protect chickens and other livestock from bears — and bears from being shot for eating chickens and livestock — is to use electric fencing, said Knutson.

“A shock from a fence is a deterrent, it’s not a very comfortable feeling … you don’t want to do it again,” he said.

It’s the responsibility of people to try to deter animals from entering their property in search of food, said Knutson. Livestock should be secure and people should take steps to manage bear attractants such as garbage or unlocked outdoor freezers.

“Just because you haven’t had a problem doesn’t mean you won’t,” he said. “No one is immune to bears.”

The number of bear interactions and bear kills from previous years in the Whitehorse area were not readily available for comparison.

Bear-human conflicts can occur at anytime outside of the animal’s hibernation period, Knutson said.

Bear sightings were reported earlier in the month along the Riverdale trail, a popular hiking area within city limits, although those bears — a sow and cubs — haven’t been seen recently Knutson said.

“We haven’t had any calls about that sow in a while — she’s being a good mama and keeping her cubs away from people,” he said.

People can report bear sightings or problem animals to Environment Yukon at 1-800-661-0525.

The department is also currently running a survey on grizzly bear management and conservation. The online survey closes May 27.

“We’re hoping a lot of Yukoners will contribute to it,” Knutson said.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

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