Three nights ago, Sunday June 24th 2012, we went to bed about 11:00pm. Ten minutes later there was the sound of gunfire – two single shots, a short burst of automatic fire and another single shot! It was loud, it was close (it was actually just a block away) and it was very unusual. It is not even legal to discharge a firearm in residential areas of the town, except by law enforcement personnel as necessary.
Our first reaction was that it was connected to a criminal gangland incident – a targeted hit to assassinate some prominent gang personality. A lot of illegal marijuana is grown in BC, including here in the Fraser Valley. This means there are turf wars for the control of the distribution of “BC bud.” A couple of years ago Abbotsford received the ignominious title of the “murder capital of Canada” due to the number of killings of criminals by other criminals. As a result of excellent police work, 2011 became a year in which no murders occurred in our fair city.
The following day it became known that the incident was not connected with crime. On Sunday afternoon a black bear showed up in our neighbourhood and started going through the backyards of local residences looking for food, raiding bird feeders with bird seed in them in particular. It did not visit our property and we were unaware of its local presence. It continued over the next number of hours appearing here and there and then going away. The police were called and they notified the wildlife protection folk. They would normally come in such circumstances, tranquilize the animal and then ship it away to a forested area at least 50 miles away. No one was available to do this. The police did their best to encourage the bear to leave the area and return to the nearby forested area. The bear became aggressive and showed no fear of humans. Finally, the reluctant decision was made to shoot and kill it.
This type of sad event seems to be on the increase. Our town has experienced rapid growth over the last two or more decades with a population increase from about 50,000 when we arrived here in the mid 1970s to a current 136,000. Urbanization has caused the loss of some of the local wildlife habitat. In fact, the spot on which our house stands (700 feet above sea level on one of the lower slopes of SumasMountain) was deep in the forest when we first came to Abbotsford. It is estimated that 20-40 bears are currently resident on Sumas Mountain and people who live higher up, two miles or so from where we live see them more often but without the unfortunate outcome of this occasion.
The Abbotsford News published a report with a short video taken by a local resident who received a visit from the bear in his own backyard. The report is still on the online edition of the News and here is a link to it should you be interested. It will not remain available indefinitely.
By the way – we have no grizzly bears around here. They are confined more to the central and northern part of the province. Our black bears are normally shy and non threatening.