A mama bear has been teaching her cubs how to raid chicken coops in Agassiz, and residents are wondering what she’ll do when the supply runs out.
Last week, the bear ate most of Kate Onos-Gilbert’s heritage chickens, after breaking into their coop near Tranmer Road. While she initially thought the chickens were stolen, Onos-Gilbert realized upon further inspection that it was, in fact, a very hungry bear.
Now, neighbours in that eastern Agassiz farming community have witnessed the bear cleaning out their coop, too. And she seems to be a mama bear, with at least three little cubs following her lead.
“She definitely has a taste for chicken,” said Aletta VanMuyen, who has only five birds left after several visits from the four-legged family. It was VanMuyen’s son who first saw the bear close their home.
“I came home from berry picking with my children, and I was on my patio,” she said. “My son came out on the patio and said ‘Mom, get in the house, get in the house!'”
VanMuyen has been watching her backyard closely ever since. She’s witnessed the bears taking her chickens, and more of the Onos-Gilbert’s birds.
“I saw her take the last two out of her coop,” she said. VanMuyen snapped some photos as proof of the bear’s close encounter to their home, and has spoken to a conservation officer. But she wasn’t comforted by his advice.
“He told me to kill (my) other chickens so I wouldn’t have a problem,” she recalled.
The VanMuyen’s and Onos-Gilbert’s fields connect, and VanMuyen knows of several other people who have chicken coops in the area. She worries about everyone’s chickens, and what the bears will do when the chickens are all gone.
Their neighbourhood, around Scott and McCartney Road, is accustomed to wildlife. It’s perfect bear country, with native berry bushes lining the fish-filled Fraser River. There are acres of in-season crops too, mostly corn — a staple for the black bear. It’s a bit of a mystery why the bear is getting into the coops when other foods are so close by.
While bears are known to get into chicken coops, VanMuyen is shocked at the tenacity of the bear and how often she’s returning.
“Yesterday she was here three times,” she said. “She’s obviously making herself at home.”
At some point, there will be no more chickens left in the coops. But there will be four bears used to finding an easy meal in their backyards.
“At the rate she’s going, she’s going to clean us all out,” VanMuyen said. “I really don’t want to see her killed, but at the same time, is it safe?”
For now, they’ve got their last five chickens in a more secure coop, with a poly roof. VanMuyen and her three children don’t go out near the fields alone, and her husband does the chores near the coop.
They clap their hands when they go outside, and make their presence known to the bears.
“It’s been an adventure,” she said, but the worry remains.
“What if she does go after a dog or a cat or a child?”
Sgt. Steve Jacobi confirmed through the Conservation Officer Service that bears have become a nuisance, and a live trap has been set up in the area.