Bear dies during rat eradication program

  • Dec. 9, 2011 12:00 p.m.

By Jane Wilson–An unfortunate accident killed a bear during a Parks Canada rat eradication project on the Bischof Islands in September.The rat eradication was part of the Gwaii Haanas’ SGin Xaana Sdiihltl’lxa : Night Birds Returning project, which aims to protect seabird colonies by removing the invasive rat populations. Poisoned bait stations were placed on the islands, south of Lyell Island, from Aug. 1 to Oct. 1. The stations were checked daily, but “they are plastic containers never intended to keep out bears” said Project Manager Laurie Wein. “We’re very concerned about the non-target impacts, and the bait stations worked exceedingly well in that respect,” citing only four deaths of animals discovered poisoned by the stations on the Bischofs, all of them birds.The bear was discovered on the islands after the rat eradication had started. Ms Wein said Parks staff had never seen a bear on the islands, “there’s nothing in theoral history about bears on the islands, it was just a surprising thing that it was there.” Gwaii Haanas staff removed the bait, and placed meat laced with an antidote, after discovering the bear Sept. 23. They also tried to scare the bear off the island for several days with shouting and banging, which was not successful. “The top priority was getting that bear off the islands” said Ms Wein. Staff and a conservation officer eventually tried to relocate the juvenile bear for its own safety, but its head was caught in a snare designed to trap its foot, and it died on Sept. 28.”The capture of bears for the purposes of immobilization and relocation is inherently risky to the animal” said Ms Wein, “Gwaii Haanas, in consultation with the provincial conservation officer and its project partners, carefully assessed the risks of capture both to the bear and to the project success. The decision to proceed in this manner was taken with due consideration weighing the risks to the bear and the likelihood of a successful capture. This is an unexpected and unfortunate result of a standard method of bear capture for the purposes of immobilization and relocation.””Gwaii Haanas is very disappointed and saddened by the loss of the animal,” said Ms Wein. No other bears have been seen on the Bischofs since the incident.

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