Rhonda Lee McIsaac
In May, Haida Laas participated in a taan Haida Gwaii black bear relocation program. Crews released two rehabilitated yearlings into the forest of Daawxuusda the West Coast of Haida Gwaii. The siblings, Gwaay Taan Island Bear and Taan Sqwaana Other Bear, raced from the boat deck to forage in an area rich with spring greens and intertidal life. Since his spring release Gwaay Taan has fared well. A local k’aad Sitka blacktail deer hunter recently spotted Gwaay Taan looking healthy. Tags still hung in both his ears as he wandered many kilometers away from where he was originally relocated.
Last November, after taanaay were orphaned, wildlife managers decided to capture the pair. Local conservation officers, Skidegate Band Council members, and local community members helped. The team sent the yearling taan to Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers. Over the winter caretakers fattened them up on apples and fish that Haida Gwaii fishers and families donated. They planned to release them in a safer and healthier area.
Relocation helps taanaay to avoid any more human conflicts and is a non-lethal way to handle situations arising from close proximity to human-use areas. The team hoped to avoid taan’s strong homing instinct by releasing the cubs 100 kilometers from where they found them. Few taan were thought to live in the release area, enabling young taanaay to forage and grow up without getting beat up or killed by territorial or aggressive bears. The release area was also near an inaccessible Protected Area, to give taanaay a better chance at surviving. Gwaay Taan may maintain a denning site nearby as he prepares to hibernate through his first Haida Gwaii winter.
The Haida Nation respects taan and gives them their space. Haida Gwaii black bears are particularly easy going, and are extremely unlikely to attack. If you encounter a bear, stay calm. Always be aware and prepared to remove yourself from the area. Do not run as bears are much faster. Do not approach or feed bears as they habituate to people easily and will search out human food. Place garbage out only on pick up days and pick up garbage at camping or hunting sites. Report any taan sightings or problems with taan to the Conservation Officers 24-hour line at 1-877-952-7277.