B.C.'s Conservation Officer Service is investigating whether a grizzly bear in B.C.'s Elk Valley was shot and killed by a hunter over the weekend.
Conservation officer Ryan Gordon, based in Fernie, B.C., says his office received a report from the public on Monday that a person had discovered a dead female grizzly bear on River Road south of the municipality.
After an on-site necropsy which found the bear to be about six years old, he says his office determined that the animal had been killed by a well-aimed shot from a high-powered rifle round Sunday around 7 p.m. MT.
Last year, more than 30 black and grizzly bears were euthanized across the region after they had become habituated to people or had been hit on railways and highways.
Gordon says the grizzly bear killed on Sunday didn't appear to have posed any threat to humans, and conservation officers are still investigating whether the hunter shot the animal intentionally or by accident.
The amended B.C.'s Wildlife Act regulations, effective since April 2018, prohibit trophy hunting of grizzly bears, but Gordon says conservation officers will have to look at the circumstances surrounding the interaction with the animal to determine whether it was illegal to kill it.
"There could be a significant fine levied. There could also be loss of hunting privileges and firearms use," he said.
Gordon says the female grizzly bear was the first case of a suspicious shooting of the species this year after three similar cases last year.
Gordon adds that a typical female bear could live up to 25 years and could rear several cubs a year. Although the bear killed on Sunday didn't seem to have cubs, he says her death could have a negative effect on the grizzly bear population in the region.
"She's at the right age right now for having cubs, so any time you lose a female such as this from the breeding population, it does impact the overall health of a population in a given area," he said.
Gordon is asking anyone living on River Road to provide CCTV footage, if able, or any other information. H says people can also call the conservation officers' 24-hour hotline at 1-877-952-7277 to make an anonymous report.