A cute cinnamon-coloured black bear had captured the hearts of many in Rossland, but was also causing more and more trouble. Two short months after the bear came to town, conservation officers (COs) were forced to trap and euthanize her.
Li'l Cinnamon meets her maker — and trashy humans bear the blame.
"She showed up in town around mid-May," said Rossland Bear Aware coordinator Sharon Weider. "She was small, not much bigger than a dog, so people thought she was an orphaned cub."
In fact, COs have recently confirmed that the bear was five to ten years old and probably a runt. Although she may have been in town in previous years, this was the first year she was noted as a problem.
The bear was very comfortable in town, perhaps too comfortable, Weider said. "I got phone calls from people in different areas around town. The bear was out at all hours of the day and not paying any attention to people at all."
“This underscores the fact that the longer bears are tolerated, as they get older they get bolder,” Weider said.
"At the end of June, I got a phone call from City Hall that there was a bear up in the Pinewood area. It was garbage day, and the bear was going around trying to get it. The neighbours pulled the garbage together and tried to keep the bear away," Weider said.
"When I got there," she continued, "I saw her come walking up the street, looking at us like we weren't there. She wasn't threatened by us at all. She wasn't aggressive either. She was habituated."
When it reaches this point, Weider said, most hope is lost. Relocating the bears, even a great distance, rarely helps. There is little to no hope of changing the bear's habits to return to a wilderness diet.
"Basically, the first problem is that people had not called in [to the RAPP line—Report All Poachers and Polluters] when the bear was first seen," Weider said. "If it's caught early on, there's potential at the beginning to haze her, to scare her out of town so she doesn't feel welcome. By June it was too late."
By June, the bear was regularly visiting the dump behind Ferraro's. Weider photographed her there one day, "nonchalant, chomping away in there."
"I went in to talk to Ferraro’s," Weider recalled, "and they said, 'Oh yeah, he's here all the time'. I asked why the [chainlink, electrified] gate was not closed. They said Al Davies [the city's garbage contractor] stores stuff in there and doesn't always close the gate behind him."
So Weider approached Davies who said that, in fact, he does close the gate behind him, and said the problem was Ferraro's leaving the gate open.
Back at Ferraro's, Weider was also surprised to have discussions with high school students working at the grocery who had the attitude, "What's the big deal? The bear’s here all the time."
Weider explained to them about the formation of a bear's trash habits and how those bears can become both a nuisance and a danger to society.
Sure enough, there were soon reports from a man near Happy Valley who was working on a task outside when he felt a cold wet nose on his arm. He turned around to see Li'l Cinnamon looking back. Not long after, this bear broke through the man's screen door, opened the fridge, and pulled everything out for a big snack.
And Li'l Cinnamon was down at the Lion's Campground too. For each of the past three years, Weider has noted recurrent bear problems at the campground.
"I don't know before that, but I know for sure the last three years," she said. "It's the garbage system they have, I don't think it's very recognizable to people."
She noted that they have a secure, locked gate around the main garbage storage—albeit "a little difficult to open"—and secure dumpsters—albeit with bent corners that the bears can pry open to reach in—but some campers seem unaware of the garbage system.
"Some people just leave garbage on top of the dumpster," Weider said. "There's no signs to tell people what to do with their trash. And some people leave their coolers out."
A couple weeks ago, the COs brought a trap into lower Rossland for another problem bear that they subsequently caught and euthanized.
"When people saw the trap, some were upset and thought it was this [cinnamon] bear that was going to be trapped. They wanted to know what to do," Weider said.
Unfortunately, the options were slim. As Li'l Cinnamon's bad habits piled up, the COs were left with no choice. She was trapped and killed at the campground last week.
"Just two months from showing up to town and being killed," Weider pondered, "that's a typical lifespan of a bear that gets habituated to people and used to getting into garbage and other people food. It's typical of what happens to these bears."
The solution, she said, "takes everyone." First of all, she said, "We prefer people to call the RAPP line early, when the bears first show up. Early in the season we may be able to do something—when they break into your house, it's too late."
She also suggested, "Get a garbage can rather than a bag in the street. The dump behind Ferraro's should be secured 24 hours a day. And they should bear-proof the dumpster at the campground along with signs to let people know to properly dispose of their trash and keep food locked away.”
Weider gave the dumpster outside of Trail's public works yard and a new one beside the bocce pit in the Gulch as good examples.
To Weider's knowledge, Cinnamon’s death brings this year's bear tool to two—but there is a third trap out right now for another problem bear.
She said, "A fed bear is a dead bear.”