09/05/2013 02:21 EDT | Updated 11/05/2013 05:12 EST

Conservation officers say they had no choice but to destroy mother bear and cubs

COLDSTREAM, B.C. - Conservation officers had no other choice but to destroy a mother bear and her cubs in B.C.'s Okanagan, said the officer in charge of the district.

Officers were called Tuesday afternoon to investigate a complaint that the bears were harassing a person's livestock, said Barb Leslie, inspector in charge of the Okanagan for the Conservation Officer Service.

When they arrived to the area in the District of Coldstream they found the animals treed, but when the trio came down, the mother began acting aggressively, said conservation officer Sgt. Josh Lockwod.

"The sow bear came right back and approached the officer. At that time she was dispatched."

Leslie said tranquilizing the cubs wasn't a safe option for either the officers or the public, with a school nearby.

"It's unfortunate that this had be to done. These bears had been in the area since they came out of hibernation in May," she said. "But over the last few weeks they started to become much more aggressive, getting into garbage and in this case harassing the livestock."

She said the officers spent several hours with the bears before the decision was made, and killing the animals was the last thing they wanted to do.

"We have to decide on public safety. When we start getting bears losing their fear of people or causing damage, we have to assess what the options are. In many cases by the time that they're doing damage, there's only one option for us — we have to destroy the bears."

Another bear, believed to be the sow's cub from last year, was chased off into the nearby park.

Lockwood said that bear was spotted going into some garbage and will also likely have to be destroyed.

"Until we get the garbage issued managed, it's just a matter of time before the fourth one becomes a victim of household garbage too," he added.

Leslie said more communities are becoming bear aware and residents are locking up their garbage, making sure the fruit is off the trees and other enticements are put away.

But the end of summer is prime time for an animal focused mainly on eating, she said.

"The fruit's ripening up in the Okanagan, the vineyards are ripening up, gardens are ready. We're asking people to make sure that they're taking the precautions to keep their communities safe and also the bears safe." (CKIZ, The Canadian Press)