Black bear loses fight against “The Colonel”

The “Colonel” spent his years enjoying chicken from homes near Oster Road, at the dismay of local residents.

The large grizzly bear would break into coops regularly, stealing chickens, feasting on the poultry, and carrying on his merry way. The problem bear was eating so many chickens, the Conservation Officers Service had to step in.

After spending three years tracking, trapping, and relocating the grizzly, he was met with his unfortunate demise, killed on his pursuit for an unsuspecting coop.

But, the Colonel’s final three years were interesting, explained local conservation officer Alex Desjardins. Starting in 2016, the officers began receiving complaints of a grizzly bear on the fringes of Golden.

“I guess you could say the bear was specialized, as it would only go for chickens,” Desjardins said. “It would come over at night, break into a chicken coop, kill five chickens, kill 20 chickens, and then never be seen again.”

Until a few weeks later when the Colonel would come back for more.

“We’d get the exact same call 10 kilometres down the road, same MO, and the bear would do the same thing,” Desjardins said.

Conservation officers were able to trap the bear in a culvert trap. They put a collar on him, and transported him to the Blaeberry drainage for relocation in the fall of 2016.

“When it comes to translocation, the simplistic way to look at it is bring it out in the bush, bring it out in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, there’s no such place in B.C.,” Desjardins said, adding that bears can’t be relocated into national parks. “There’s always a small town, recreation sites, forestry camps… There’s no middle of nowhere.”

The bear was taken the short distance for translocation in hopes that the negative interactions with humans would keep him away. Conservation officers monitored the bear, who was wearing a GPS tracking collar that emits a signal twice a day, and the bear hibernated over winter. After leaving his den in 2017, the large male was right back at his old habits.

Since the collar only emitted a GPS signal twice a day, the conservation officers would receive the call, but by the time they were able to locate the bear, he would be kilometres away again.

“So, we chased him. We did a lot of education with the public, with the residents of those areas,” Desjardins said.

Soon after his return, the collar stopped moving. The conservation officers thought maybe he had died in a remote location, where the signal was emitting from, but the Colonel returned to strike again. The collars are designed to wear away after a certain amount of time, and it was possible that it had simply fallen off.

The conservation officers had to get crafty with their response to capture the bear again, since he had learned his lesson from the first culvert trap. They were able to snare the bear one evening, and it was decided that he would be killed for his continuous human interactions and dangerous behaviour near residences.

“We put sticks and we guided where we thought he would put his right paw, and sure enough, it was midnight when we got the call that we had captured a large bear,” Desjardins said, adding that they set the trap on the path the bear had been using previously. “I’ve dealt with hundreds and hundreds of black bears, but when you get a grizzly bear, especially in the snare, and especially in the middle of the night, a large boar, it is interesting walking in the night with your flashlights, and see those large eyes looking back at you.”

Even after the bear was euthanized, the Colonel’s collar continued to send out a GPS signal in a remote location. Out of curiosity, and to recover the equipment, Desjardins set out on foot with a couple people from the Rod and Gun Club. He expected the collar had just fallen off, but what they found painted a vivid scene.

The collar was buried under avalanche debris, and nearby was the body of a black bear.

“The first thing we found was a large black bear carcass. A skull and some bones,” Desjardins said. “About three or four metres beside it, we eventually found the grizzly bear’s collar.”

So, what Desjardins imagines happened, was the grizzly bear and the black bear met on the slide path, a fight erupted, and the black bear likely ripped the collar off the grizzly before the grizzly bear killed and fed on the black bear.

“So we got a perfect picture of what happened and why that grizzly bear shed its collar prematurely,” he said. “Now, we have a collar we can use for a different animal.”

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