Nearly 100 black bears have been killed by conservation officers in the B.C. Peace and Northern Rockies over the last seven years.
New data released through a freedom of information request shows which B.C. communities have seen the most number of bear deaths between 2015 and 2021.
The numbers from the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy indicate 3,779 black bears have been killed in the past seven years. That's an average of about 540 black bears a year.
In the northeast, conservation officers have killed the most bears in Fort Nelson, with 25 reported between 2015 and 2021.
The communities of Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge followed, with officers putting down 15 in Chetwynd, and 14 in Tumbler Ridge over that time period.
That data shows 10 bears have been killed in Fort St. John, nine in Dawson Creek, six in Taylor, and four in Hudson’s Hope.
Charlie Lake, Wonowon, and Pink Mountain were among the northeast communities that saw the fewest killings, with three reported in each community over the last seven years.
Two killings were reported each in Pouce Coupe and Moberly Lake. There was just one killing each in Liard Hot Springs, Rolla, and Arras, according to the data.
By comparison, conservation officers in Prince George killed 36 bears in 2021 — a scale of euthanization higher than any other community in B.C.
Between 2015 and 2021, Prince George recorded 231 bear deaths at the hands of conservation officers, more than double the number of government-sanctioned black bear killings in Terrace, the next closest community.
When asked about the newly released data, a spokesperson for the BC Conservation Officer Service said the most effective approach to minimizing human-wildlife conflict is education and prevention.
"In the 10 communities which have been certified as 'Bear Smart' – reports of bear conflicts have decreased by almost 20 percent," wrote the spokesperson in an email.
Much of that comes down to reducing attractants in communities, such as garbage and fruit trees.
"All of the preventative actions taken by the service are focused on keeping bears wild and ensuring attractants are properly secured," added the spokesperson from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, which oversees the service.
"The sad reality is that when people fail to take those precautions, bears are put down to keep people safe.”
On a smaller scale, between seven and 40 grizzly bears have been killed every year across British Columbia since 2015.
Find out many black bears have been killed in your community over the past seven years
The data was published Monday by wildlife advocacy group The Fur-Bearers.
Aaron Hofman, director of advocacy and policy, said every community where bear killings are trending upward or are consistently high should be concerned, whether it's a local ecosystem out of balance, a huge gap in educating the public, or enforcing local and provincial laws.
He also said the BCCOS must be held accountable for how and when it chooses to kill a bear.
"Ultimately, it's a human problem. The bears will come to the communities, areas where there's food. Food waste, garbage, companies not doing due diligence," said Hofman. "Whether it's Prince George or Coquitlam, we've encroached on these wild animals' habitat. But we can coexist with them."
"We do believe that having zero killings is a goal that's achievable."
— with files from Stefan Labbé, Matt Preprost
Have a story or opinion to share? Email your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org