Allan Piche loved his pot and he loved his bears. When the RCMP raided his property, they charged him on both counts, and now the Christina Lake man is being fined $6,000. That’s just for the bear feeding. He has yet to face the music on his growing op.
When the police showed up at the rural home about 500 kilometers east of Vancouver, they found a lot more than 1,000 marijuana plants (or 2,300, according to one account). Wandering around the property were 10 black bears. They were so accustomed to humans, they were calm and friendly around the police.
Piche and his wife, Kathleen, had been shelling out $200 a week to feed their grow-op guards. Piche insisted he had been feeding a couple dozen bears for ten years, not to guard his illegal plants but because he liked having them around.
That left conservation officers with a dilemma. If Piche suddenly stopped feeding the bears, they might turn to other human food sources and become problem bears. So they allowed Piche to wean them gradually until they went into hibernation. He posted a video on YouTube (now on Vimeo — see below) to show how tame they were.
In May 2011, he told CBC the bears had come back but left when he didn’t feed them. Over the next few months, conservation officers shot 17 bears in the area, three times as many as in a normal summer. They said the bears were breaking into RV parks and damaging property. With no fear of humans, they had become a danger.
The bears Piche had been feeding had no identifying tags, so the officers could only guess the increase in problem bears was connected to him. When he appeared before the court, Piche admitted guilt. The court fined him $6,000 but saw no reason to impose jail time.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Piche said, “I feel relieved that it’s finally done, and I feel it was a just settlement considering the impression the court has to give, to deter people from doing this sort of thing.”
Piche has described himself as an aging hippy. In the video, he talks softly about the bears while a tame raccoon plays around his neck. Had he not been caught, he would still be quietly feeding bears and growing his pot plants.
Both are illegal, but feeding two dozen bears may have been the riskier behavior. Bears with no fear of humans are usually the ones that end up being shot. It sounds as if a lot of the tame bears simply returned to the woods, but at least some of them paid for his friendship with their lives.
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