|Scene photos of police after a raided on a marijuana grow operation that was apparently guarded by black bears. Officers conducting the raid at Christina Lake in southeastern B.C. and found a property with two residential buildings and a fenced-off grow-op with about 1,000 plants. Police also found about 10 bears that were used to keep people from stealing any pot plants. (RCMP Hand out photo)
The fate of a group of black bears found last summer apparently guarding a suspected marijuana grow operation is still up in the air as B.C. officials wait for them to wake up from hibernation.
B.C. Minister of Environment Terry Lake said conservation officers will be keeping a watchful eye out for the bruins after they awake from their slumber to see if they return to a Christina Lake property where they were found last August, lounging tamely around a pot patch and eating dog food.
"They should be coming out anytime," he said.
"In the interior, this is when we start seeing them. I suspect in Christina Lake it's any day."
Acting on a tip at the property at the popular resort area, about 700 km southwest of Calgary, Mounties were surprised to be greeted by the bears they believe were given handouts by the owner to help secure the more than 1,000 pot plants.
Allen Wayne Piche of Christina Lake, B.C., was charged with feeding dangerous wildlife.
Lake said the fate of the bears rests on what happens after they wake up from their deep sleep.
"The conservation officers will be paying very close attention to making sure the individual is not feeding them and monitoring the bears to see if they are posing a danger," Lake said.
The bears could be relocated from the property or possibly destroyed if they can't return to finding food naturally.
"When bears are habituated like this they go back to where they were fed," Lake said.
"We are hoping if there is no food they will start foraging naturally -- if they don't, we will have to have a plan of action."
He said the case should serve as a reminder to people to avoid feeding bears or accidentally leaving food or garbage out in backyards.
"When you attract bears whether purposely or inadvertently, you are giving them a death sentence," he said.
"Not always a death sentence, but often it is."
The story of the bears, who were discovered devoid of natural instincts to be fearful of humans, caught the attention of Calgarian Doreen McCrindle. Her online petition to save the bears has gathered at least 2,468 signatures.