Headless bear carcass dumped near Sandspit

Upsetting find one of many human/bear conflicts on island

Headless bear carcass dumped near Sandspit

A headless black bear carcass found on a beach east of Sandspit this week sparked anger across Haida Gwaii.

On Facebook, many residents condemned the killing and dumping of the bear, one of three unlawful bear killings now under investigation.

A few weeks earlier, another black bear carcass was found at Haans Creek, just west of Sandspit. It was intact, but a large tide washed it into the sea before investigators could get a close look.

In June, about 10 days after the black bear hunt closed on Haida Gwaii, a carcass was found with its snout removed at Kagan Bay, west of Queen Charlotte.

Sergeant Kyle Ackles, a Haida Gwaii conservation officer with B.C.’s Ministry of Environment, said the latest carcass was obviously dumped on the beach from a vehicle.

“I’m assuming they were hoping the tide would wash it away,” Ackles said.

“But we just haven’t had the big tides lately that would come high enough.”

If a suspect is found, he or she could be charged with killing a bear out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife.

This is Ackles’ first year on Haida Gwaii, but after going over records and speaking with residents, it is shaping up to be an unusually difficult one in terms of human/bear conflicts.

With seven and a half months left in the fiscal year, residents have made nearly 50 complaints about human/bear conflicts compared with 43 in all of 2016.

The situation is especially concerning in Sandspit, where residents are taking extra care with their garbage and other attractants since two bears started coming into the village regularly this summer.

Not only have the bears lost their fear of people and learned to feed on garbage, they have also killed sheep and goats.

“It’s so easy to access, with such a high calorie load,” said Ackles.

“Once they learn that behaviour, they’re not going to stop it.”

It’s always a last resort, but in this case, Ackles said he has no choice but to trap and destroy the bears.

“On a place like Moresby Island, I don’t think there’s anywhere far enough away that you could put the bear without it coming back,” he said, noting a conditioned bear may well starve trying to return to Sandspit it were taken to another island.

Ackles is hoping he can still protect other bears that have been showing little fear of people in Tlell and Skidegate.

In Tlell, one bear got into some garbage this spring, and was seen in the area not long ago.

But on garbage day last week at least, it seemed the bear had moved on.

In Skidegate Heights, a few bears have neared people’s homes, but so far they are mainly been feeding on berries.

“There is so much natural food there that keeps them in,” said Ackles, who has used rubber bullets and loud “cracker” shells to make the bears afraid to come close.

A bigger issue is that a few people were leaving deer carcasses or fish waste nearby, drawing the bears into the village where they might start looking for non-natural food.

The same thing happened early this year at Honna Creek, west of Queen Charlotte — people were dumping fish waste off the creek bridge, drawing bears close to nearby hiking trails where people often walk their dogs.

“If there is a surprise encounter with a sow and cub, that’s a lot more concerning, especially when people walk their dogs off-leash,” said Ackles, who has investigated more than one defensive bear attack where an off-leash dog chased a bear then ran back to its owner with the provoked bear behind it.

To report any poaching or wildlife conflicts, islanders are asked to phone the Report All Poachers and Polluters line at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) rather than the local Haida Gwaii office.

Not only is it staffed 24 hours, the RAPP hotline is the best way to quickly reach everyone tasked with protecting wildlife and natural resources on Haida Gwaii — a list that may soon expand as two provincial ministries, the Council of the Haida Nation, and Gwaii Haanas are developing the first integrated compliance and enforcement team in B.C.

“We all have the same interests here,” said Ackles.

“In the future I expect to see different-coloured uniforms working together a lot more often.”