Bear injures human 

Human-bear conflict highlights need for better waste management

For the first time in Whistler’s history, a human was injured after encountering a black bear.

At approximately 3 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13, a 24-year-old male encountered a black bear trapped in the entranceway of a rented home located on Archibald Way in Alta Vista.

Attractants played a role in the situation with a report of five large green garbage bags and three small grocery store bags of household waste stored in a room off the entranceway.

The encounter resulted in the local bartender garnering 27 stitches across his neck and making a plea for Whistler to implement a more easily accessible waste system.

Whistler has only two waste stations: one in Function Junction, the other in Nesters. People must walk, bus or drive to the sites to dispose their garbage.

"It was really sad this had to happen, but the bear was obviously just trapped and freaked out and was trying to get out," said one of the five residents at the Archibald Way house. "The conservation officer said that (my friend) was lucky to be alive. The bear was centimetres away from hitting a main artery."

Although concerned about the well being of his friend, the resident doesn’t begrudge the bear, only the situation.

"Whistler needs a better waste system," he said. "You’ve got to have a car to get rid of garbage. They need something where people can walk down the road and get rid of it, close like at the post boxes or something."

The resident, who didn’t want to be identified, walked a Pique reporter through how the situation unfolded.

According to the resident, a "large" bear entered the front door of the house. The door was unlocked. The animal entered a roughly 4X12-foot entranceway with three other doors off of it. One of the doors led to a storage room where two bags of garbage were stored. On entering, the front door closed behind the bear. The animal was trapped with no way out.

The resident walked through the hallway noting the torn door trim around the front door’s frame and a muddy, smeared paw print with claw marks on the adjacent wall.

He went on to explain how a fellow roommate realized what was happening on the night and ran out the back door and around the house to open the front door and let the trapped bear out – but unfortunately not soon enough.

In the meantime, a visiting friend opened the door opposite the front door.

"They were struggling with the door," the resident explained of the bear and friend, noting the claw marks etched into the door. "That’s when it happened."

The man was struck across the face and neck area once. By this time, the roommate had opened the front door and the bear turned around and fled.

The bartender was brought to the Whistler Health Care Centre for treatment and the conservation office contacted.

Bear home break-ins are on the rise in Whistler. Already this season, the conservation office has received 800 calls; 238 of the calls occurred just this month. Whistler’s biggest previous call log was in 2004 with 472 calls to the same date.

Sylvia Dolson of the Get Bear Smart Society noted increased calls are due to increased bear activity as well as reports about collared bears connected to the aversive conditioning study.

This year the conservation office reported 63 house break ins with bears entering or attempting entry into homes. As a result, four bears were destroyed between June and August this year.

Dolson says two key factors are contributing to increased house break ins, including low natural food availability and mismanaged attractants.

The Archibald Way resident said bears have visited the house before. He showed claw marks where bears climbed up a tree to the house’s second-floor porch.

He said the house stores garbage in the shed room inside the house because none of the housemates have cars. The group relies on an outside friend with a car who transports the household’s waste to a waste station.

Dolson is pushing ahead with her suggestion to implement a waste system modeled after the one set up in Canmore, Alberta where for every 10 homes, there is a waste station set up within walking distance.

"This incident highlights the need for Whistler to address its waste management for those who don’t have easy access to compactor sites," Dolson said.

In the meantime, residents are asked to regularly dispose of their garbage in bear-proof bins, not letting odours accumulate. Conservation officers are also recommending people keep windows and doors locked, especially at night. If people have a bear in their house, they are asked to call for help right away rather than dealing with the problem themselves.

To report a bear incident, call 1-877-952-7277.

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