Video of hand-feeding bears in West Vancouver sparks outrage

Wildlife advocates say they’re horrified by videos posted on social media that show a family who appear to be from the North Shore feeding a mother bear and her cub in their backyard.

The videos and photos posted on the Instagram accounts of what appears to be a West Vancouver family show children hand-feeding a bear cub crackers and giggling when the cub takes a swat at them. The videos also show a man feeding the mother bear a package of crackers from a sliding glass door. Several other posts appear to show the mother and cub eating food that has been left out for them in the family’s backyard.

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“It’s actually quite horrifying to see that,” said Christine Miller of the North Shore Black Bear Society. “It’s putting people and wildlife in danger.”

Conservation officers are investigating the incident after being tipped off to the posts by a phone call from the public.

Conservation officer Lonnie Schoenthal said when bears are fed by people – either intentionally or unintentionally - they are likely to become conditioned to think they can approach humans and receive food.

“The bears remember where they were given food,” said Miller, and might approach other people’s houses if they see a similar sliding glass door. If they see a window open, they might enter a house, she said, or go after a person walking on the sidewalk eating a snack.

Miller said the family are probably feeding the bears because they are fascinated with wildlife, but lamented those actions will more than likely result in the bears being killed.

“I don’t know how they could not know feeding wildlife is not acceptable,” said Miller, noting wildlife advocates, municipalities and the media have been repeating that message for decades.

The social media posts make it clear, however, that not everyone has got that message.

Comments posted in Russian with the photos didn’t appear to show any awareness that the bears could be in jeopardy because of the family’s actions.

“I’m such a little teddy bear” read one comment, after being run through a program to translate it to English. Other comments referred to a diet of “forest grass” not “being enough” food for the huge mother bear. “In this house, there is always something there,” read another.

Feeding dangerous wildlife is an offence under the Wildlife Act, punishable with a $345 fine.

Miller noted there hasn’t been a lot of bear activity lately on the North Shore, thanks to a good berry crop. However, in recent months, there were two cases of bears entering homes through open windows in North Vancouver – one in Lynn Valley and one in Canyon Heights. Nobody was home in either instance, but the bears left unmistakeable signs of their presence – including footprints inside the house – said Miller.

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