Discovery of a lifeless and severely emaciated bear sparks concern about depleted bears’ food supply

- Canada -

On Thursday, September 17, a severely emaciated brown bear was found dead at Smith Inlet.

Smith Inlet is about 37 miles north of Port Hardy in the traditional territory of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation.

The poor bear was found by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw team on a river patrol near Nekite River estuary.

The discovery, most definitely heartbreaking, sparks concern and highlights a worrying reality, bears’ food supply.

John Smith is a fisheries supervisor with the band and the one who made the devastating discovery.

The Abbotsford News reports that John Smith said: “The poor bear starved to death.”

Mr. Smith also said that there are very few fish in the river and added that he saw five other bears who seemed “thinner than normal” but not as bad as the dead one.

Ms. Patricia Sewid, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw fisheries officer, went back Port Hardy a few days ago and counted the lowest salmon numbers of her profession.

According to The Abbotsford News she said: “Eight days ago I counted just over 300 pinks, ideally I should have counted over 10,000.”

Ms. Sewid also noticed a low count of berries, which is another food source for the bear population.

Ms. Sewid also explained that the Smith Inlet team is used to observing grizzlies on a regular basis in their territory and it is to be expected to see skinny bears from April to May because that’s the period when bears come out of hibernation and it takes a couple of week to put weight back on.

She rightfully said that discovering an emaciated bear in September is alarming.

On the other hand, Tom Rivest, a guide and co-owner of the Great Bear Lodge, although he agrees that the numbers of salmon and berries are low, he said that a necropsy will determine the cause of death, and he suggested the bear could have some underlying condition which prevented him/her from feeding.

He said that while he saw some bears who were in good shape, he saw others who were just “getting by.”

Rivest added: “The challenge is, we only see a few percent of the habitat the bears use, so a lot of our observations allow only limited conclusions.”

Jake Smith, the Mamalilikulla guardian watchman program manager said the authorities have been informed of the issues that guardian watchmen have come across while patrolling their territories.

However, there has neither been any response nor collaborative efforts and he said: “It seems like the authorities don’t want to do anything about it. They’ll slap your hands and say ‘that’s not right’ when you take matters into your own hand or say that these deaths are just ‘natural’.”

Jake believes that bears starving and dying indicate a serious problem and studies need to be undertaken to see what the real problem is.

He rightfully said: “When a grizzly dies of starvation it’s not natural, it’s a man-made disaster.”

I couldn’t agree more!

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