Bears, Cannabis, Cops—oh my!
A Wild Alaskan brown bear sitting on upper bank of salmon river in Katmai Preserve. (Photo by Greg Boreham via Getty Images)
It’s hard to find a Canadian weed story that is more Canadian than the tale of bears guarding a grow-op in the wilderness of British Columbia. While the CBC’s short, glibly titled post—”Bears guarded B.C. grow-op: RCMP”—has probably been forgotten by, well, everyone, it’s time to honor the monumental moment, simply for how obnoxiously Canadian it was.
As the CBC reported, on August 10, 2010, before cannabis was legal in Canada, RCMP officers raided an illegal grow-op in the Christina Lake area of B.C., only to find nearly a dozen relatively well-behaved cannabis guard bears around the site. Ten, to be specific, which is a whole lot of bears in one place!
RCMP Sgt. Fred Mansveld told the CBC that the bears appeared to be pretty tame. “One of them jumped on our unmarked car for a while,” he said. “But it soon became apparent they were habituated to the grow operation.” The bears ran after sticks, milled about, and were generally accustomed to humans.
“I could have just walked up to one of the bears,” said Cst. Chuck Brind’Amour, “But I certainly didn’t want to do that!”
The grow-op’s owner, busted for having over 1,000 plants on site, had apparently been feeding the helpful bears for years, his neighbors told the CBC. The owner was Allen Wayne Piche, the self-described “Bear Dude,” the Daily Mail reported in a follow-up the next year. Of course, because the story can only get weirder, Piche “paid” the cannabis guard bears in dog food. Though it sounds like Piche was buddies with the bears, their very presence seemed to accomplish his security goals. “Once the word’s out in that community that there are a lot of bears in and around your setup, I don’t think anybody else would want to come near them,” Mansveld said.
To reiterate, where else in the world would you find a guy who calls himself “Bear Dude” and bribes a small family of bears to guard his massive cannabis plantation? Only in Canada, baby!
But instead of getting a medal for the most Canadian act of animal husbandry ever, he was set to be charged with marijuana cultivation. Lucky for Piche, he seems to have gotten off with no charges, according to that Daily Mail follow-up.
It’s also worth mentioning, as the CBC’s initial report said the cannabis guard bears were slated to be “destroyed”— the government’s way of saying killed—that they too were granted a bit of clemency. The Daily Mail reported that, after an activist campaign to save the cannabis guard bears, who were deemed too accustomed to human contact to live, they were given a chance to reacclimatize to the wild. As of that last report, in 2011, they’d gone back to the hills to hibernate, and authorities were waiting to see if the cannabis guard bears would return to normal foraging or head back to Piche’s plantation.
Here’s hoping those cannabis guard bears found some huckleberries and wild salmon.
While getting cozy with bears doesn’t always work out—see Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man—there is some evidence they can live side-by-side with humans without tearing them to shreds. This Russian grizzly bear, for example, is so domesticated that he sits down to breakfast every day.
And he certainly doesn’t eat dog food.