WARNING: This story contains graphic content that may upset readers. Discretion is advised.
Breanna Kettlewell says she was traumatized last week at the Mission landfill after watching a dead bear being dumped.
She was at the landfill site on May 2 to drop off a load of refuse.
“As I’m pulling in, I saw the conservation officers pulling in with a trailer on the back. So I watched them and they go and dump a baby cub into a pile of landfill. It was really upsetting to see,” Kettlewell said.
She said she decided to “keep my eyes and ears open” when she went back to the site on Monday, May 6.
“Lo and behold, what did I see? Another baby cub being dumped.”
The dumping did not take place at the front portion of the site, where most members of the public drop off their waste; rather, it was at the face of the landfill at the back of the site.
“Obviously, I want fewer bears being shot, for one. I want to know why these bears were killed in the first place. I mean, they’re cubs.”
Kettlewell said she hasn’t heard about any bear attacks in the area and has yet to hear back from any conservation officers.
She also said if – “and that’s a big if”– a bear has to be killed, its remains should be reused, either left for other animals to feed on or for cultural purposes.
“But mainly my goal is that fewer bears should be killed.”
When contacted, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service released this statement to The Mission Record.
“Human-wildlife interaction is an ongoing public safety issue in communities throughout the Lower Mainland, especially in the spring and summer months.
“In the unfortunate event when an animal must be euthanized, the Conservation Officer Service (COS) works to ensure proper disposal of the body.
“In more remote locations, COS officers seek ways to dispose of the animal in the natural environment. In cases where this is not an option, such as those close to urban areas, often the only option is to transport it to landfill.
“In those cases, COS staff make efforts to ensure landfill operators dispose of the animal where it is not accessible to view.
“In this case, the bear in question was a high conflict animal which had recently entered a house in Maple Ridge. The bear was tranquilized and euthanized by conservation officers, as it was a threat to public safety and not a candidate for relocation.
“The COS brought the bear carcass to the landfill for burial. The photo was taken prior to the bear being buried. Conservation officers will continue to make efforts to ensure landfill operators dispose of the animal where it is not accessible to view.”
Barry Azevedo, the District of Mission’s manager of environmental services, said conservation officers have been bringing animal carcasses to the landfill for some time.
“They have to dispose of the carcasses somewhere. It could be road kill or other things,” he said.
The landfill actually accepts many dead animals at the sites, including horses, dogs, cats and more. Only cows are not accepted due to a high risk of disease.
Azevedo said the public doesn’t normally see the carcasses.
“Most people don’t actually go to the actual active face of the landfill. It’s only when you are disposing of something particularly bulky. Most residents drop things off at the garbage dropoff area by the scale house.”
Commercial businesses often go directly to the active landfill site, as do the conservation officers.
“That’s where the conservation officers come. They put it right at the landfill face, and it gets buried in a short period of time. Things are constantly being covered with soil at the landfill.”
However, Kettlewell said it isn’t hard to see the main landfill from the normal dropoff area.
“Where people usually dump the small stuff, you can just look right over the ledge and see the huge landfill,” she said.
“I just want something changed. It’s not right.”
Azevedo said people have an ability to help with the situation.
“A lot of bears get shot because they become nuisance bears and it’s because people aren’t managing their garbage or their fruit trees. They aren’t following proper bear-safe practices and if people did that, fewer bears would be shot,” he said.