Whitehorse residents warned not to feed wildlife after black bear killed in Riverdale

·3 min read
A black bear in Yukon. Whitehorse residents are being reminded not to put out food for wildlife and to minimize food smells on their properties to avoid attracting bears.  (Environment Yukon - image credit)
A black bear in Yukon. Whitehorse residents are being reminded not to put out food for wildlife and to minimize food smells on their properties to avoid attracting bears. (Environment Yukon - image credit)

Pat Ellis was enjoying her morning meditation this past Sunday when she was suddenly interrupted by a loud blast.

Out the window, she saw a black bear — shot dead by a conservation officer in her own front yard in Whitehorse's Riverdale neighbourhood.

"I've never heard of a bear in Riverdale before around the streets... we're not that close to the bush," said Ellis, who lives on Teslin Road. She says she was shaken by the experience.

David Bakica, the conservation officer who culled the bear, says he started receiving calls about it walking through Riverdale early Sunday morning.

The animal was spotted eating garbage and compost before he finally caught up to it as it was laying under a pine tree in the front yard on Teslin Road at about 10 a.m.

Becky Bohrer/The Canadian Press
Becky Bohrer/The Canadian Press

"This is actually pretty unusual. We don't usually get them coming this far into neighbourhoods," said Bakica.

"It's typically around the edges."

He estimates the young male bear was 3 years old and weighed 120 pounds.

Bakica said he killed the bear because it was a public safety threat, with many residents out walking that morning with their dogs and children.

"[The bear] was not a good candidate for us to do anything other than destroy it, as it had clearly been in the garbage, clearly was unafraid of people, and was willing to go into the middle of a subdivision to try and access garbage and compost," he said.

"We're luring a lot of wildlife around the place"

Ellis is concerned that people are inadvertently luring bears into the neighborhood by feeding wildlife.

"We're luring a lot of wildlife around the place," said Ellis. "We're feeding foxes who are not starving. They shouldn't be fed."

She says she's seeing more and more foxes in her neighborhood every year, and people are leaving food out in the streets for them to eat.

Bakica notes that feeding wildlife —whether that be foxes or birds— is not only dangerous, it's illegal. He encourages people to report the behaviour.

He also says leaving food out attracts bears into residential areas and that wild animals have more than enough food already, adding that even bird feeders should be avoided.

"Bears will over time get used to the fact that there's people around and if you combine that with the smell of food sources, that's what happens," said Bakica.

Environment Yukon
Environment Yukon

He noted this bear season is no different than past ones.

Bears tend to wander onto people's properties during the months of July and August as their food sources become more scarce. When berries start growing at the end of August, they are less likely to wander into residential areas.

"It really is all about smells," said Bakica. "We're talking barbecues, birdseed, scented candles, just all the kinds of things that you should think about trying to minimize in your backyard compost."

The Yukon Government's conservation officers have resources online on how to 'bear-proof' your backyard.

Some tips include:

  • Storing garbage and other attractants in a secure garage, locked shed or fenced yard.

  • Putting garbage, compost and recycling out the morning of collection, not the night before.

  • Keeping extra smelly items such as scraps of fish or meat in the freezer until collection day.

  • Washing bins regularly to reduce smells.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting