There are those that might say that Golden has a bear problem. But according to Conservation Officer Dan Bartol, that's simply not the case. It's quite simply a people problem.
It's people that lead to the vast majority of issues with problem animals, including the juvenile male bear that had to be euthanized near the Golden Mobile Home Park on Thursday morning.
The bear, who was known to both residents and COs to be roaming the park for some time now, found a quick meal outside the residence of Lora Curran, albeit through no fault of her own.
After placing her garbage outside for collection around 8 a.m., Curran saw the bear at what she estimates to be one or two hours later.
"The bear headed through our next door neighbour's yard and beelined for his garbage bin. He sniffed his at first, then went over to mine and started drooling like you wouldn't believe…I was yelling from behind our window telling it to get lost. It wanted to and then it beelined right back again and tipped over our garbage bin…I went out onto our deck and next thing I know it has our garbage bag and it tore into the woods behind our place."
Curran immediately called Bartol and the CO arrived minutes later and found the bear just 50 feet into the forest.
"When it heard me, it took a few steps off, just a couple feet. Then it turned around and stood its ground. It was staring at me. I was vocalizing, letting it know I was there and it was not moving off as a normal bear should," Bartol explained.
Bartol shot the bear once from a distance before shooting it twice in the head from close range.
While it might seem like relocating a bear is a better solution than euthanizing it, that solution isn't always possible.
Bears can be relocated if it is safe for both the officers and the bear, if the bear has a decent chance of survival (this particular bear was already in poor health) and if a bear hasn't been habituated to getting its food in town. If it is, Bartol explains, then relocation is just passing the problem on to someone else.
Bears remain an ongoing issue at the Golden Mobile Home Park (often referred to as the Husky trailer park). The area is a known bear corridor and many residents don't have garages or sheds to properly store their garbage. As reported in our May 13 issue, Town Council is currently exploring several options with regards to garbage collection in the park, including either the purchase of bear proof bins or the establishment of a communal garbage system in the park.
For Bartol, the problem extends far beyond the park and into town, where on Saturday morning he noticed several overturned garbage bins along 5th Ave. S on his way to work, many of which were found right outside of garages.
Bartol delivered warnings to those offenders, but he says that warnings will soon be replaced by fines if required.
"It's a combination of education and enforcement. Education is definitely the first step and if it's not working then unfortunately we'll have to go to the next level," he said. "In the meantime, bears are going to be euthanized."
In his previous experience working with Parks Canada, Bartol saw individuals get injured and killed by bears before people realized what a serious problem it was.
"I would not like to see that happen in our community. I'd rather be proactive and solve the problem before it becomes such an issue that more bears are killed or that people are injured as a result of our actions," Bartol stressed.
And the solution, he says, is right at the collective fingertips of Golden's residents.
"We have the solution in our hands. Put your garbage away. It's really simple, but it takes a whole community working together to make that happen."