'It's disturbing': Black bear shot after den fire in Labrador very unusual, wildlife official says

The shooting of a black bear north of Churchill Falls last December is very unusual, according to a wildlife official. 

The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources is investigating the incident where they say a bear's den was intentionally set on fire, forcing the bear out to be shot.

"Certainly it's not uncommon for us and the nature of our jobs to have investigations where animals are taken out of season — whether it be moose, caribou, or even small game — but for a bear it's very uncommon," Travis Clannon, a senior wildlife official in Labrador told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.  

Clannon said the bear was killed around the isolated area of Orma Lake and Sail Lake, about 100-150 kilometres north of Churchill Falls.

"It was harvested, they did take the bear from the area," he said. "If there is any silver lining, at least it was used."

Shaking their heads

The hunting season for black bears in the Labrador south region, which includes the area around Churchill Falls, happens twice a year: in the spring from April 1 to July 13 and in the fall from Sept.1 to Nov. 30, Clannon said. 

"I won't speak to the who, the why is something that we're certainly shaking our heads at," he said.

"It's not accident that [the hunting season] is set up like this, it's to get away from any bear that's in hibernation. So for someone to seek out a bear during that time and want to harvest them, it's very odd to us. It's disturbing, and we were surprised. The investigation keeps unraveling and we're surprised with every turn that we take."

Possible charges

While Clannon said it's premature to discuss charges at this point in the investigation, the potential is there for several charges to be laid. 

"There is a couple of different charges and one of them would be specific to the harassment of wildlife, and each charge does carry fairly severe penalties and with prohibitions," he said.

Clannon said help from the public has been essential to the investigation, and is asking anyone with information to contact the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement in Wabush or visit stoppoaching.ca.