Two individuals who are connected to an incident where black bears were fed in an upscale Whistler neighbourhood are facing charges following a lengthy investigation.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Sept.15, B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service (COS) confirmed that charges had been laid.
Charged are Oliver Dugan and Zuzana Stevikova. Both are charged with leaving “matter to attract dangerous wildlife,” while Stevikova is also charged with “feed or attempt to feed dangerous wildlife.”
The COS first launched an investigation in July 2018 after receiving an anonymous complaint to the service's RAPP line claiming that residents of Whistler's Kadenwood neighbourhood were deliberately feeding bears.
"The suspects allegedly purchased large quantities of apples, carrots, pears, eggs and almonds to leave out for the animals," officials explained in the post.
According to court documents Dugan individually faces one count of leaving matter to attract dangerous wildlife to site under section 33.1(2) of the B.C. Wildlife Act, with the offence date listed as June 1, 2017. Dugan is also facing four more counts under the same statute, with the according offence date for those counts listed as Sept. 19, 2018.
Stevikova, meanwhile, faces three counts of feeding or attempting to feed dangerous wildlife, in contravention of section 33.1(1) of the Wildlife Act. Those alleged infractions reportedly took place on June 1, 2018, according to court documents.
Stevikova and Dugan together face two more counts of leaving matter to attract dangerous wildlife, with those offences alleged to have taken place on June 1, 2018.
The charges were approved by the BC Prosecution Service in June of this year, while a warrant was issued for both individuals. According to the COS, one of the individuals returned to Canada on Aug. 16 and was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency at Vancouver International Airport.
Stevikova is due to appear in North Vancouver Provincial Court on Nov. 18. Neither individual is currently listed as being in custody.
While B.C. conservation officers have the authority to issue tickets to those caught contravening the Wildlife Act, in this case, local officers concluded that the resulting impacts to both public safety and local wildlife meant "a minimal fine, like a ticket, is not appropriate," said COS Sgt. Simon Gravel when reached by phone Wednesday, Sept.16. "Obviously, we are hoping for a larger penalty than that."
Gravel said local officers are happy to see the charges they recommended following the investigation moving forward. "We are also hoping that they will raise some awareness that [feeding bears] is not acceptable and there are some consequences legally," said Gravel. He added that "people need to understand the consequence on wildlife."
In 2018, the COS said it had also received “several other reports and information” of bears approaching people and creating property damage in Kadenwood. It also reportedly had information suggesting that bear feeding may have been occurring in the area “over a number of years, contributing to the domestication-like behaviour of several bears."
A sow and two cubs that were suspected to have been fed in Kadenwood were euthanized by the Crown agency in September of that year after displaying “very troubling” behaviour on the scene, conservation officers said at the time.
"Obviously, with all the effort we make in Whistler to mitigate conflict and learn how to respect the wildlife around us, when a case like this comes up it's frustrating and it's definitely concerning, both for public safety reasons and also for the health of our black bear population," said Gravel.
Gravel pointed out that this investigation and the resulting charges were only made possible by the anonymous members of the public who reported the allegations. "I really encourage anyone who has knowledge or has witnessed such behaviour to report it to the RAPP line," he said. "Without that information it'd be very difficult for us to [launch] an investigation without the assistance of the public. In this case, it was very instrumental."
None of the allegations listed in this article have been proven in court.
Two individuals face charges in connection with allegedly feeding black bears in #Whistler. In July 2018, the #BCCOS...Posted by Conservation Officer Service on Tuesday, September 15, 2020
- With files from Brandon Barrett
This article was originally published on Tuesday, Sept. 15. It was updated on Sept. 16 to include the names of the accused, and additional information provided by Sea to Sky conservation officers.