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Conservation officers issue PSA after bears killed for aggressive food-conditioned behavior: 'We can do better'

It's important for locals to do their part to decrease the amount of bear attractants on their property.

It’s important for locals to do their part to decrease the amount of bear attractants on their property.

Photo Credit: iStock

Officials in one Canadian town were forced to put two bears down after they displayed "aggressive and food-conditioned behavior." 

What happened?

Yukon News reported that two bears were euthanized in the town of Whitehorse, located in the southern part of the Canadian province that borders Alaska, according to a Facebook post by Yukon Conservation Officer Services. The two bears had both displayed a high level of food conditioning along with aggressive behavior. 

"They had access to various attractants at many of the locations including bird seed [and] garbage. They checked out some barbecues, so they were up on peoples' balconies," conservation officer Dean McLean told the publication.

 Why are food-conditioned bears concerning?

Ultimately, offering easy opportunities for bears to get free food leads to more human-wildlife conflicts. While this rarely results in human death — there have been about 180 known fatal bear attacks in North America since the late 1700s, per History.com — it can result in the euthanization of "problem bears." 

For instance, three black bears were put down in Missoula, Montana, in May 2024 after repeated conflicts with residents. Two other bears were euthanized in Montana in September 2023 after several run-ins with people. Meanwhile, a necropsy on a black bear that was euthanized in Colorado that same month found that its intestines were clogged with human garbage.

This is sad news for bears, humans, and other animals, as bears are important "ecosystem engineers." According to the National Park Service, these omnivores spread plant and berry seeds through their poop. They also help to disperse "marine-derived nitrogen" into the forest around salmon streams. The agency also says bears help control populations of deer and other prey species. 

What is being done to stop food conditioning in bears?

According to the officers, it's important for locals to do their part to decrease the amount of bear attractants on their property. This includes locking up trash, compost, and recycling, removing bird feeders, and securing any other smelly items that may attract bears, like citronella and pet food. 

They also advised citizens to regularly dump garbage bins that aren't bear-proof and to carry non-expired bear spray. Installation of electric fences was advised for people who have larger attractants on their property, like beehives and backyard chicken coops.

"This is a sad reminder that our actions directly impact the lives of our wild neighbours," the conservation services' Facebook post read, per Yukon News. "We can do better." 

These are good ideas for anyone living in bear country. However, you may also encounter bears in national parks and while camping, and it's important to carry these same principles with you on these excursions to help keep bears safe. For instance, it's important to safely store your food and other smelly attractants inside your vehicle or a bear-safe container or locker when camping.

Dogs can also help us out, as biologists in Montana are training "bear conflict dogs" to scare bears away from human settlements and help them avoid human conflict.

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