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Starving Grizzlies Killed in Canada

November 25, 1999 GMT

VANCOUVER (AP) _ Rangers and villagers killed nine grizzly bears on Canada’s western coast, after large numbers of the animals began foraging in town when their traditional supply of salmon dried up, officials said Wednesday.

A mother bear and two cubs were killed Wednesday in the most recent shootings and three other bears were airlifted out of the region.

Residents of Oweekeno village on the central British Columbia coast say they have never seen so many bears in town, said Tom Gottselig, the fisheries administrator for the Oweekeno First Nation, an Indian group.

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He blamed the lack of salmon, which make up 70 percent of the bears’ diet.

The area, also known as Rivers Inlet, has recorded more than 3 million sockeye salmon returning to spawn in past years, Gottselig said. This year’s figure was expected to be 3,500, he said.

``It’s an absolute catastrophe,″ he said.

Conservatioinists blame a history of logging and over-fishing in the area for the depleted salmon numbers.

Herb Langin, an Environment Ministry spokesman in nearby Williams Lake, said the bears were a threat to the community and unsuitable for relocation.

``It wasn’t likely they were going to survive,″ Langin said. ``They didn’t have the fat reserves that a bear would normally have at that time of year.″

Tom Reimchen, a biologist researching the relationship between bears, called on the federal government to take immediate steps to help the salmon stocks recover.

He warned that the problem exists all along the British Columbia coast, threatening the ecology and local communities.