Grow op closed, but bear cafe lives on

B.C. man charged again with feeding wild bears. Last time, police said they were guarding his pot crop.

Photo of black bear courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He says he loves animals and that's why he was feeding dog food to the hordes of bears hanging around his land, which just happened to include what police say was a pot plantation.

They also say he was feeding the bears so they'd serve as de facto guards for the grow op. A number of them had to be killed because they had become aggressive with people about food.

Now police in Christina Lake say they've caught the man feeding the animals again. So they've added that charge to the drug rap he'll be tried on in February.

The Canadian Press has the details:

CHRISTINA LAKE, B.C. -- Conservation officers near this tiny northern town were forced to kill 24 bears this year after they became dependent on dog food handed out by a man police believe was using the bruins to guard his pot plantation.

This week, that man was charged once again with feeding the animals.

Insp. Chris Doyle with B.C.'s conservation service said this week that Allan and Kathleen Piche have each been charged with one count of feeding dangerous wildlife between June and October of this year.

Allan Piche is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Dec. 13 and is set to return to court the next day for a sentencing hearing on the same charge laid last year.

Piche could be handed up to $100,000 in fines and a year in jail. A second conviction could double all that.

Doyle said the 24 bears were destroyed after potentially dangerous interactions with people.

They were "approaching people and searching for non-natural food around other people's houses and simply not being scared off and actually approaching people for food.''

Typically, Doyle said officers would kill only four or five nuisance bears a year.

Piche was arrested in August 2010 when police discovered tame black bears apparently guarding a pot plantation.

Photos depicted an officer grinning into the camera with a couple of docile black bears ambling about behind him. Officers were on the property to get rid of thousands of pot plants.

Piche has said he started out by feeding a single elderly bear about a decade ago, and the situation snowballed from there. He denied ever using the bears to guard pot.

Conservation officials agreed last year that Piche should begin feeding the bears on a reduced schedule before they go into hibernation.

The hope was that they'd be weaned from their dependence on dog food when they emerged from hibernation in the spring.

But Doyle said the condition of the bears that had to be put down this summer suggested the feeding didn't stop.

"The bears were larger than you would normally see in the sample population,'' Doyle said.

He said it's difficult to say whether any of the bears that were being fed eventually returned to the wild.

Piche's trial on the grow-op charges is to begin in February.

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