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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Officials believe they have been able to save a group of bears thought to be guarding a Canadian marijuana field, but the man alleged to have tamed them is in legal hot water.
Wildlife officers charged Allan Piche on Tuesday with illegally feeding as many as 26 black bears in what authorities believe was an attempt to keep them wandering around a rural property Christina Lake, British Columbia.
Police discovered the bears in August when they raided the property near the U.S. border in search of a marijuana-growing operation. It was thought the animals were intended to scare away potential intruders.
The bears proved to be ineffective guards, showing no hostility to police and one curious animal even climbed on top of a car to get a better view as it watched officers haul away the marijuana.
Wildlife experts initially warned the bears would likely have to be killed because they had become too docile and habituated to humans to continue living in the wild.
But officials instead decided to wean the bears of their dogfood diet so they become re-accustomed to eating in the wild. Most are now believed to be hibernating, and none are expected to be killed.
No charges have yet been filed in relation of the drug bust, but Piche faces up to a year in prison and fine of as much as C$100,000 if convicted of breaking wildlife laws.
Reporting by Alan Dowd