from CBC Canada

HOME   Salmon gone, starving bears threaten B.C. town

Thursday Nov 25 07:49:22 1999

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VANCOUVER - A dramatic drop in the number of salmon has led to dangerous conflicts between people and grizzly bears in a small town in British Columbia.

Nine bears have been shot and three airlifted out of the community of Oweekeno. The grizzlies are coming into town because they are starving and desperate to find food before hibernating.

Oweekeno is a one-street town of about 200 people, set in remote wilderness.

Tom Gottselig, fisheries administrator for the Oweekeno First Nation, says everyone is staying indoors because of the bears.

"Everybody has to be picked up in cars, kids can't come out of school," Gottselig told CBC News.

"Last night, the mother and two cubs tried to get into three houses. You know the people inside their homes were terrified, you know women and children. So she was killed with her two cubs."

Grizzlies normally avoid people, but the bears are starving because hundreds of thousands of salmon have failed to return to spawn.

Biologist Tom Remichen says B.C.'s salmon are a critical food source for the bears and other animals.

Remichen says the "catastrophic" decline in the Rivers Inlet area has been evident for years.

He blames the decrease on overfishing as well as on increased logging, which puts more sediment into lakes and streams making them unsuitable for salmon spawning.

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