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where they could watch for animals, and scare them off. Biologists in the ministry do not

believe the bears’ arrival has anything to do with new subdivisions being built. “Urban displacement is not moving hundreds of bears into farms,” he said. Berry fields are just a natural

Gaskin Farms, in the shadow of Burke Mountain, has become a favourite gathering spot for bears.

attractant, and black bear populations are large in B.C. today. Chretien says there’s considerable

public push-back to the idea of culling the bears, and he foresees a consumer backlash if berry growers begin to take a hard line. Once the blueberries are finished

for the season, the bears turn their attention to nearby spawning streams and then migrate back up the mountain to hibernate for the winter, he believes. Landfills also used to attract bears,

but most are now completely fenced to keep them out, he noted. Continued research and monitoring

of the situation may turn up some better solutions, he said. He’s been dealing with bears in


Conservation Officer Denny Chretien says a better quality electric fence than Kwantes has is needed to keep bears out. “Barbed wire doesn’t hold a charge. It needs a smooth run. It loses energy at every barb,” he explained. A neighbour has

installed a six- strand electric fence with three wires charged, including the bottom one which is at ground level to discourage digging, he noted. It’s charged with 14,000 kilowatts

and it appears to be stopping bears, he said. He admitted it’s expensive at $15 or

so a metre, but he said he felt the losses farmers were experiencing would quickly make that worthwhile. Officers have tried immobilizing bears to relocate them out of

blueberry fields and also trapping them, but he says it’s very time- consuming and there are still more coming in because berries are a natural food for bears. As well,

growers should be sensitive to the environmental impact of bear control for marketability

reasons, he pointed out. “It’s like dolphin-friendly tuna,” he

commented. “We try to avoid killing bears unless they’re predating on humans. It’s normal for them to feed on berries. Even when pickers are in there, it’s not likely they’d be interested in humans, except if they became territorial.” He suggested when pickers are in

the blueberry fields that someone be stationed in a tower or high spot

6 British Columbia Berry Grower • Winter 2012-13

blueberries for the past three years and says he’s only had to destroy two. One was a massive, 500-pound bear with a bad attitude and the other was a sow who was blind. Chretien is also an agrologist, so he

has a better understanding of the farmer’s side of it than many in the CO Service. He says he understands that there’s

a public safety issue here as well, but he’s opposed to culling the animals and feels that could blow up into an international incident. He says he continues to work with

growers to try and find solutions to the problem.


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