Friday, July 19, 2024

Officials stress safety after ‘unusually aggressive’ black bear encounter on Vancouver Island


Conservation officers are renewing a call for residents to take precautions, following an “unusually aggressive” black bear encounter on northern Vancouver Island.

The BC Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) says RCMP were called to a residential area of Port Hardy, near Market and Granville Streets, early Friday morning to help a man get to safety amid the confrontation.

“Port Hardy residents are accustomed to bears wandering through town, but this bear was unusually aggressive, so the public should maintain safe distances from bears at all times,” the service wrote to Facebook.

By Friday afternoon, conservation officers were in town working to track down the bear, liaising with municipal officials and posting signage in the area to warn locals. 

The incident prompted the BCCOS to urge people to familiarize themselves with black bear safety tips, including travelling in groups and keeping away from a bear, using pepper spray within 7 metres if it gets too close.

Other safety tips include:

  • Remain calm: Do not run or climb a tree. Do not scream, turn your back on the bear, kneel or make direct eye contact. Slowly back away, talking to the bear in a quiet, monotone voice
  • Stay together: If you are with others, act as a group. Keep children close – pick up and carry small children
  • Go indoors: Bring pets indoors if possible
  • Watch the bear until it leaves: Make sure it has a clear escape route. After the bear is gone and it’s safe, make sure there is nothing in the area that will attract bears back again

People are also asked not to feed bears, according to the BCCOS, who note it’s actually against the law to give food to dangerous wildlife.

Last September, a Whistler resident received a combined $60,000 penalty for feeding and attracting bears to her property—the highest overall penalty imposed under the BC Wildlife Act.

An investigation found she was intentionally feeding black bears throughout July 2018, with up to 10 cases of apples, 50 pounds of carrots and 15 dozen eggs purchased each week.

“The primary concern of the COS is public safety,” added COS Sgt. Simon Gravel.

“Illegally feeding or placing attractants to lure dangerous wildlife, such as bears, is an extremely dangerous activity. Once bears learn to associate humans with food, it creates a public safety risk.”

The following September, conservation officers were forced to put down three bears that were repeatedly visiting the area, causing property damage and showing no fear of people.

That contributed to the nearly 380 black bears destroyed by the COS in 2018, according to provincial data, compared to the over 500 put down by officers last year alone.

For more details about bear behaviour and how to respond when spotting one, the BCCOS points to a series of safety videos posted on its website.

Conservation officers urge people to report any bear sightings immediately to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1 (877) 952-7277.

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