No trace of Jeanie for two months 

Collared bear may have gone into hibernation

Whistler's favourite resident black bear may have gone into hibernation, or she may have met with some other fate.

The Get Bear Smart Society hasn't seen a trace of Jeanie since her tracking collar went offline in late October.

The bear, who's been called "the icon for Whistler," was fitted with a GPS radio collar that same month in order to monitor her movements. However a day after getting her collar her signal disappeared.

Chris Doyle of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said it's likely that she's gone into hibernation by now.

"Most likely what's happened is she's gone into den," he said in an interview.

Jeanie was caught in late October near the Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain after Conservation Officers got a report of a bear breaking into the building.

Officers set a bear trap and Jeanie was caught but it was never concluded whether she actually got into the Roundhouse so she wasn't killed, as is the normal policy in cases where bears have broken into buildings.

Already tagged, she was given a collar to track her movements and relocated within the Whistler area. That's the last time she was seen.

It's been a rough year for the bear who has captured the hearts of Whistlerites. Last spring she emerged from her den with three cubs, sparking concern among bear-watchers that she would condition her offspring to seek out food in the village.

However all three cubs were killed over the summer, possibly by males who wanted to mate with Jeanie, or else by other female bears or coyotes.

Lori Homstol, a bear biologist with the Get Bear Smart Society's bear research team, said Jeanie was equipped with a collar that carried a "very high frequency" signal that allowed them to track her movements within the region.

However that signal can be blocked by rough terrain. Cedar trees can also block such signals if bears have gone into den, according to Homstol.

"The signal will be dampened down and the signal will be difficult to hear from the ground," she said. "If you can get in a helicopter or small plane you can get a small signal and see where she is but we haven't been able to do that."

Outside Jeanie's troubles, it's been a far less fatal year for bears than the previous one. Not a single bear has had to be destroyed by the Conservation Officer Service since the bears woke in the spring. Eleven bears were destroyed in 2008.

The Conservation Officer Service did have to euthanize a bear that was sick and starving to death last January but besides that it hasn't had to kill any bears due to conflict with humans this year.

Asked why, Doyle said the conditions didn't allow for the same kinds of conflicts in 2009.

"The berry crop was very good... so bears were able to feed on natural foods for a sustained period of time," he said. "The berry crop was good right through October, so the bears were in good condition and weren't as reliant on unnatural foods.

"Other factors were the way we're managing attractants in Whistler. The efforts of businesses and individuals to restrain attractants makes a difference."



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