10/02/2012 12:25 EDT | Updated 12/02/2012 05:12 EST

Kamloops Bears Habituated In B.C. Interior Making Community Nervous

black bear eating berries

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Conservation officers in British Columbia's southern Interior will capture and assess nine problem bears before making any decision on destroying the animals, says an inspector with the government agency.

The bruins are believed to be members of two bear families and have been patrolling a section of brush and raising concerns around the Adams Lake Indian Band, about 60 kilometres east of Kamloops.

While the animals have raised local fears, bears also play a significant role in the First Nation's culture and are included on the band's logo.

"The situation is really a tough one," said Conservation Insp. Darcy MacPhee.

"We have bears that will not leave the community. They've tried several different methods to get rid of them and they're now faced with a very difficult task of what to do with these animals."

Some of the animals have been acting aggressively towards local residents, so conservation officers have decided to act, he said.

Under the plan, conservation officers will capture the animals and assess their behaviours based on age and whether or not they're part of family units, said MacPhee.

Because relocation doesn't work, he said, habituated animals will likely be destroyed but cubs will be sent to a rescue facility.

He said the bears have been forced into local valleys because of the dry summer, and band members don't want the animals destroyed because of their spiritual value.

While the nine problem bears may be a concern to community members, there are others that have not generated fear.

Gladys Arnouse, who lives on the reserve, said she sees a mother bear and its cub walking down to the local lake in the mornings and evenings to feed on fish.

She said community members stay out of the bears' paths and make sure older children are aware of the animals.

"I mean, the bears have been here forever," she said.

"We're just more careful of them. The kids have always grown up knowing that there are bears around this time of year coming down to the lake to fish."

Zoe Albert who lives next to the First Nations' community said several bears have been in her yard since August, eating berries and grass and fattening up for the winter.

"They don't bother us," said Albert. "We like the wildlife. I'm not complaining about them because they have to live too."

Although the bears have walked right up to her veranda, Albert said the bruins have not been into her garbage.

According to the Ministry of Environment's website, black bears spend the early autumn building up their fat reserves for winter hibernation, which can last five to seven months in the Interior and three to five months on the South Coast.

During that time, they're attracted to foods that are high in protein and energy and accessible with very little effort.

Predatory black-bear attacks are extremely rare, the ministry information said, noting attacks are usually a "defensive response to protect cubs, food or territory." (CHNL/CFJC)

--by Keven Drews in Vancouver

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