NEWS

Squamish grizzly bear dies after 3 attempts at relocation

09/11/2014 03:49 EDT | Updated 11/11/2014 05:59 EST
The death of a grizzly bear that was relocated three times from the Squamish dump is highlighting concerns about difficult the process is for the animals.

"We do know that immobilization is very stressful on an animal," Conservation Officer Peter Busink told CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

"This bear in particular had been relocated at this point three times in basically a month period. So that's a lot of stress to put on an animal."

The bear first became a concern in July, when it began frequenting the Squamish landfill. Twice, it was relocated with a vehicle, and twice, it returned to the landfill.

Carried under a helicopter

On the third attempt, the bear was transported in a cage that was suspended under a helicopter to an area near Toba Inlet.

"When they dropped him off, within about 48 hours the grizzly bear biologist noticed that the signals that were being emitted by the GPS collar had stopped," said Meg Toom, the WildSafeBC program coordinator for the District of Squamish.

"So he flew back and found that the grizzly bear had actually died."

There was no necropsy to determine cause of death, but Busink says other factors — like eating garbage or metal — could have been at play.

Toom says many people underestimate the stress of trapping and relocating an animal.

"We get a lot of residents who say, 'There's a bear in the neighbourhood, can you just get a trap.' And they think it's an easy solution, but it's not," she said. 

"It's a very stressful situation for them. They're trapped. They're tranquilized. They get an ear tag. They're manhandled."

Relocating versus destroying a bear

In this case, the grizzly was equipped with a tracking collar, so officials knew something went wrong.

But Toom says little is known about the success rates of other relocation attempts.

Grizzly bears are a threatened species in the Squamish area, with a population estimated at only about 59, which is why officials go to such lengths to avoid destroying the animals.

"Because we have a threatened population they certainly will get more opportunities to be relocated," Toom said.

Busink says the three relocation attempts likely cost upwards of $20,000.

He says officials try to avoid doing long-distance relocation attempts, but in this case they didn't have a lot of options.

"It was choosing to remain in the area and feed on garbage," Busink said, adding that public safety was a real concern.

"The relocation was the last resort and option to try to save this bear's life. We attempted it, and unfortunately it didn't result in the outcome we'd hoped."

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