Bear believed to be culprit in deaths of Metchosin sheep


More than a dozen sheep have been killed in Metchosin in recent weeks by what is believed to be a single problem black bear.

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And some say efforts to track it are being hampered by residents who are urging others not to report bear sightings.

The bear has killed 16 to 20 sheep over the past six weeks, says Tom Henry of Stillmeadow Farm, who discovered a disemboweled ewe on Saturday morning.

Henry said he was doing his chores when he noticed the flock was nervous.

“They flock really closely together when they are afraid and they were just as tight as you could believe. So I went roaming around and I found the ewe fairly recently disemboweled and dead as a doornail.”

It was the first sheep Stillmeadow has lost to a bear this year, Henry said, but he knows of a Metchosin farm that has lost 10.

The kill matched the bear’s usual technique, he said.

“He’s got a taste for ewe, which is mature female, as opposed to lamb, and what makes him so damn difficult to trap or even locate to shoot is because he’s killing, eating and then not coming back to the kill, which is really unusual,” said Henry.

He said he could tell the predator was a bear, not a cougar, because a cougar opens up its prey more delicately and attempts to cover the kill when finished, while a bear opens the animal wide and leaves it uncovered.

John Buchanan of Parry Bay Sheep Farm, who keeps sheep in fields throughout Metchosin, said he’s lost at least six and perhaps more than 15 sheep to bear attacks in recent weeks.

“The way he’s all over the place, he’s quite likely got some in other fields that we just don’t know about,” Buchanan said.

B.C. Conservation Service Sgt. Scott Norris said conservation officers have set several traps, with no luck.

“This bear — if it’s one or more — is not returning to the location of the kill usually. So we set a trap and then it never comes back. Then it kills five miles down the road. Then you set a trap and then it kills five miles down the road again,” Norris said.

“Obviously, it’s got a taste for sheep and it knows an easy kill.”

Normally, bears kill, feast, go off 100 metres, have a sleep and then come back to eat again before moving on, said Henry.

“But this guy just kills, eats and then moves on. So by the time we find the kill, we phone the conservation officers, they come and the bear’s gone. The dogs can’t find the scent. He’s just a really difficult guy and he’s killing a hell of a lot of sheep.”

Henry said he’s lost sheep to bears before, but hasn’t seen anything quite as difficult to track as this.

“Sometimes they move on and they move right on out of the community. They just keep on roaming. But this guy is here to stay. It makes us feel helpless,” he said.

Mayor John Ranns said the bear is a problem and has to be dealt with.

“We coexist with bears. There’s always bears in Metchosin and we live with them and see them once in a while and put up with them wrecking our fruit trees,” Ranns said.

“But this guy is different.”

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