Sunday evening, Yukon conservation officers shot and killed a grizzly bear they injured two weeks earlier.
Spotted foraging for food in a dumpster near Yukon College residences, the grizzly was first shot around 1 a.m., September 29th.
The injured bear ran into the woods behind the college, leaving a trail of blood. But the lone conservation officer was unable to follow it in the dark.
For the next few weeks, officers searched for the wounded bear.
“We weren’t sure if it was a black bear or a grizzly,” said Environment spokesman Dennis Senger on Thursday.
“But from its size and how big it looked beside the garbage can, we suspected it was a grizzly.”
Usually, officers can identify the bear by its tracks. But it rained heavily the night it was first shot, and its tracks were erased, said Senger.
About a week later, a college student was doing studies in the greenbelt and found some old tracks.
“They were distinctive,” said Senger.
“They were quite large, seven inches across.”
Not long after this, someone saw a bear crossing the highway, heading toward the Whitehorse landfill, said Senger.
It was easy to find tracks after the snow, he said.
“And from the tracks, we deduced it was probably the same bear.”
A paw snare and a bait station were set up near the dump, said senior conservation officer Chris Gustafson.
The bear was shot as it approached the bait, he added.
Officers examined the bear and found a wound where a slug had passed through its outer coat near the shoulder, confirming it was the bear initially shot at the college.
The grizzly, an older male who was probably in his late teens or early 20s, was not in good condition, said Gustafson.
This time of year most bears are quite fat, but this one was not, which is probably why it was foraging in the dumpster, he said.
“Shooting the bear is unfortunate,” said Gustafson.
“I know people are unhappy, we’re not happy either.”
But there are very few other options once an animal becomes habituated to feeding on food and garbage, he said.
“Even if we took that bear and moved it 500 miles away, which we have a long history of doing, inevitably they come to somebody else’s house or cabin for their garbage supply,” said Gustafson.
“So the secret here is to break the chain.”
Bears and humans can co-exist, he added, citing a black bear that has been living in the college greenbelt area for the past few years without incident.
This bear hasn’t had the opportunity to get into garbage, he said.
So it hasn’t been a problem.