Whistler resident first to be charged for feeding bears in B.C. 

Rico Suchy fined $3,000 and warned not to feed bears in future

Conservation officer Chris Doyle had the grim task of shooting two bears last summer outside a Panorama Ridge home.

Though it’s a part of his job as the local conservation officer, it’s a task he does not relish, especially after someone has been feeding the bears on purpose.

"It’s definitely the worst part of the job," said Doyle.

"We’re there to conserve and protect the environment and to end up having to shoot a bear because of somebody’s... deliberate actions to feed and tame these animals to the point that they became a public safety risk in the neighbourhood…."

On Tuesday Whistler resident Rico Suchy, who earlier pled guilty to feeding the bears, was fined $3,000. He was also warned not to feed bears in the future.

The decision marks the first time in B.C. that someone has been charged and convicted for feeding bears, which is an offence under the B.C. Wildlife Act.

"I think with that penalty it makes it very clear to everybody that feeding bears is a serious offence and that there are real consequences," said Sylvia Dolson, executive director of Whistler’s Jennifer Jones Bear Society.

"It’s nice to have a precedent-setting case go before the court and actually test the law and (see that) it works."

Suchy was sentenced in a North Vancouver court after submissions from Crown and the defence counsels. Under the Wildlife Act he could have faced a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to six months in jail.

"The Crown decided, given the circumstances of this offence, that the $3,000 fine was appropriate... based on all the circumstances and (that) this was his first time before the court," said Crown prosecutor Trevor Cockfield, after the sentencing hearing.

The Crown alleged on Tuesday that Suchy was going to a local bakery, buying stale pastries and bringing them home to the bears.

Investigations last summer based on surveillance and a search warrant on Suchy’s Panorama Ridge home, showed that the bears had become completely conditioned to human food.

"We determined that these bears were totally habituated to people, conditioned to food and they were very comfortable approaching people looking for food," said Doyle.

"They had no fear whatsoever of people of course because they looked to people as a source of food, and that’s the reason those two were destroyed."

Doyle also had to relocate three additional bears that were becoming problem bears in the area.

"People need to understand the problems that can be created by leaving attractants out and also that they will be held accountable for their actions if we determine that it’s a violation," said Doyle.

Under the Wildlife Act there is a provision for creative sentencing and fines can be directed to certain purposes. The Crown asked that part of the fine go toward funding the Whistler Bear Working Group.

"It’s kind of a restorative sentence where the fine that’s imposed goes to help deal with the problem that was caused by the offence," said Cockfield.

Whistler residents have been working together to limit attractants in the community said Dolson, but the actions of one person can undo the good work of many.

"Even one resident feeding bears can defeat the work of an entire community," she said.

Less than three months ago another bear was shot at the Four Seasons construction site on Blackcomb Way. Doyle again had the unfortunate task of killing the bear after it had made his way up to the seventh floor scaffolding of the hotel.

An investigation of that site showed that individual workers had been careless with their food garbage, mostly on the outskirts of the construction site said Doyle. He added that PCL Construction had been following proper procedures for keeping the site clean with bear proof garbage containers.

In addition nobody came forward with evidence that workers were deliberately feeding the bears, he said. No fines were laid in that case.

If anyone spots an environmental violation, from feeding bears to destruction of habitat or pollution, call the 24-hour line 1-800-663-WILD.


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