Landmark $60,000 fine handed out for feeding black bears in Whistler, B.C.

In a precedent-setting case, a woman in Whistler, B.C. has been fined $60,000 for feeding groceries bought in bulk to black bears in her neighbourhood.

Zuzana Stevikova was sentenced last week in North Vancouver Provincial Court in what the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said was the highest fine ever imposed under the Wildlife Act in British Columbia.

An investigation began in July, 2018 after a tip to the poachers line about someone living in the Kadenwood neighbourhood feeding black bears.

Black bears were being fed in Whistler. Photo: BCCOS

Conservation officers soon found the bears were intentionally being fed throughout that summer.

“Bulk produce – including up to 10 cases of apples, 50 pounds of carrots and up to 15 dozen eggs – was purchased on a weekly basis to feed the bears,” the B.C. Conservation Officer Service explained in a statement.

It meant the bears were being conditioned to human food and put people at risk.

“The primary concern of the COS is public safety. Illegally feeding or placing attractants to lure dangerous wildlife, such as bears, is an extremely dangerous activity,” Sgt. Simon Gravel of the conservation officer service said in a statement. “Once bears learn to associate humans with food, it creates a public safety risk.”

The service said it was forced to put down three bears in September, 2018, which were repeatedly visiting the area, causing property damage, and exhibiting “highly habituated behaviour showing no fear of people.”

Dining for so long on so many groceries, meant the bears were not candidates for rehabilitation or relocation.

Court was told Stevikova thought the bears “looked skinny” and believed feeding them might save them from trouble with conservation officers down the road.

The black bears had become reliant on people for food. Photo: BCCOS

Wildlife officers said they hope the “significant penalty” will deter others.

The majority of the money from the fine will go to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.

Charges against a co-accused, Oliver Dugan, were stayed.

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