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Conservation officers destroy black bear

'Murray' had been getting into houses

Conservation officers in Whistler were forced to kill a black bear on May 24 after it twice attempted to get into a house.

The bear, known as “Murray” to some Whistler residents, was killed on Nesters Road about a block north of Lorimer Road, said Dean Miller of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service. It is the first time this year that a bear has had to be destroyed by officers.

Miller said the bear, which he had once immobilized and tagged to ensure it could be tracked, had been seen entering a house on Nesters Way. On another occasion it made an attempt to enter the same house. It had previously been seen entering houses in November and December of 2007.

“As soon as you have a bear enter a domicile, and with or without people inside, it potentially could create a really bad situation,” he said. “We just can’t take that chance with this bear entering a house and cornering people.”

Miller said one of the biggest risks of having a bear inside a house is that kids could be inside. He added that food can attract bears to houses, and that once they obtain food, they will continue to seek it.

“We have a zero tolerance for bears getting into the house,” he said. “We've had situations where bears have entered in the homes and doors have been closed behind them and they've destroyed houses and property and whatnot.”

Murray got his name after the Resort Municipality of Whistler signed on to the Ministry of Environment Whistler Black Bear Aversive Conditioning study. Under this program, three biologists were hired by the ministry to monitor bear activity and see how the animals respond to aversive conditioning such as pain and noise stimuli. Such methods were used to keep the bears out of urban areas.

The study identified a group of 30 bears and they were named in order to keep track of them. The Conservation Officer Service, however, uses tags to identify the bears.

“It has to be in a human, in a residential area (to get a tag),” Miller said. “We identified certain bears that were consistently getting into conflict… then the (Conservation Officer) service would deliver this aversive conditioning, and then the biologist would monitor the bear’s reaction to pain. That’s how Murray got in.”

Miller is warning people to keep attractants such as food away from areas where they could attract bears.

“It will get a food reward outside of a house or a business, but then it will start to associate food with the house,” he said. “This isn’t every bear by any means, but some bears do, whether they get in initially through an open door or open garage.”

“If we can control our attractants, things like this won’t happen.”

A total of nine bears were destroyed in Whistler last year, according to Miller. Another seven Whistler bears were killed when they were hit by automobiles.