News that B.C.'s alleged marijuana-guarding bears have avoided execution is being hailed as a victory by an animal rights activist.
The man accused of dishing up dog food for up to 26 black bears that were found lounging around a pot grow operation near Christina Lake, B.C., last summer has been charged with feeding dangerous wildlife.
But more significant, said Calgarian Doreen McCrindle, is the bruins have been given a new lease on life after B.C. wildlife officials predicted they'd be destroyed after being corrupted by human feeding.
"We're absolutely ecstatic," said McCrindle, adding she's lobbied the B.C. government to seek an alternative to the bears' destruction.
"We highly commend the ministry ... it's proven humane measures are possible and euthanasia should not be a matter of first resort."
B.C.'s Conservation Officer Service now believes most of the bears found at the site have gone into hibernation.
In a statement released by the province's environment ministry, wildlife officers concluded a reduced feeding pattern would wean the animals off their dependence on dog food - and the tendency to frequent human habitation.
"This would allow the bears the best opportunity to return to the wild while also protecting the safety of local residents," it stated.
The bears had become so docile, said police, that they were friendly with RCMP officers, with one even climbing atop one of their cruisers during the August raid that uncovered the marijuana.
McCrindle, whose Help Save the BC Black Bears Facebook webpage has attracted nearly 5,000 friends, applauded the non-Criminal Code charges laid against Allan Wayne Piche.
"People should not feed wildlife - that's it," she said.
Piche has said he began feeding one needy bear at the site a decade ago but the practice snowballed after that.
He's been ordered to fence off his property to prevent the bears' return.
McCrindle said she and her animal welfare colleagues would gladly help Piche erect the fence.
Piche faces maximum penalties of a $100,000 fine and/or a jail term of one year.
McCrindle agreed with B.C. conservation officials that the bears will need to be monitored in the spring.
"We can't wash our hands of it," she said.
No drug-related charges have yet been laid in the case.
- Article from Toronto Sun.