FILE PHOTO – Three Coquitlam residents were arrested Tuesday for allegedly interfering with conservation officers who tracking three bears in a residential neighbourhood. The bears were later euthanized.
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Three Coquitlam residents were arrested Tuesday — and two had their cellphones seized — for allegedly interfering with B.C. conservation officers who were dealing with nuisance bears in the city’s Chineside neighbourhood.Conservation Officer Service Insp. Murray Smith says the officers were called to the area around 3 p.m. after receiving multiple reports that a female black bear and her two cubs had been rummaging through unsecured garbage in the neighbourhood for the past six weeks.During the call, Smith says three residents — two men and one woman — were arrested with the assistance of the RCMP and charged Tuesday with obstructing a conservation officer for allegedly stepping between the officers and a mother black bear with two cubs. Two of the residents had their cell phones seized by RCMP.“Having the public interfere with this difficult job only exacerbated a difficult situation. Not only is the public safety threatened, but our officers’ safety was also compromised,” said Smith.Officers were trying to direct the severely habituated, garbage-raiding bears up a tree so they could be tranquilized and euthanized, Smith said.The bears ended up being killed by the officers.Smith says the animals, which were severely underweight, were a danger to public safety because they had become habituated to humans and reliant on human-sourced food.“(The cubs) should have been about 50 pounds each, but these bears were half that weight, undersized and appeared undernourished,” he said.The Fur-Bearers, a B.C. animal-advocacy group, says the killing of the three bears and the arrest of the three residents illustrates the need for third-party oversight into the actions of the conservation service.Lesley Fox, executive director of The Fur-Bearers, said the only entity that will review the officers’ actions in Coquitlam is the conservation service itself.“That is a problem, and it has to change,” she said.The conservation service has answered more than 1,000 bear reports in the Coquitlam area this year. A total of eight bears, including the three on Tuesday, have been destroyed, while three others were successfully relocated.Smith says the service also had to kill a mature male grizzly as it stalked conservation officers Tuesday in a remote logging area north of Powell River on the Sunshine Coast. He says the officers had been tracking the bear after Monday’s unprovoked attack on a 45-year-old Quadra island man who had been cycling in the logging area and who managed to slash the bear with a knife, scaring it off.“An inspection of the three- to five-year-old healthy male grizzly revealed a significant neck wound,” said Smith.The cyclist, who rode his bike to a logging camp despite suffering injuries to his legs and torso, had surgery at hospital in Vancouver and is expected to make a full recovery.Smith said the grizzly was killed because it was threatening the conservation officers, while the sow and seven-month-old cubs were killed because they were no longer fearful of humans and were habituated to human garbage.-With files from The Canadian Presssbrown@postmedia.comtwitter.com/browniescott