Keep Bears Wild 

Posted 6/28/2021 Ref # 6350

Warning issued after bears enter two North Shore homes

Cypress bowl dead bear web
The carcass of a black bear decays in a ditch off West Vancouver's Cypress Bowl Road, June 21, 2021. The North Shore Black Bear Society is asking residents to keep their distance.

Posted 6/24/2021 Ref # 6349

Sharing the summer with bears on the North Shore
Photo: Tony Joyce

Summer is a busy time for bears; mothers are teaching cubs survival skills, juveniles are navigating life away from mom, and fathering cubs is a focus for adult males.

With more people venturing out to enjoy areas where bears live, it is important to remember that we share the landscape with bears. Taking steps to reduce attracting bears to our picnic tables and campsites or to reduce our impact when exploring in their home is virtual if we want to responsibly coexist with these peaceful animals.

During mating season, which will continue into mid-July, males will travel extensively in search of females. Expect to see increased bear activity, as the pursuit of a partner brings dominant males closer to areas occupied by people. Mating pairs stay together for a short time during courtship before separating and living independently.

When moving through areas where bears live, it is important to make our presence known. Bears are not fearful, and we shouldn’t expect them to run away but using our voice provides them with the opportunity to avoid a close encounter. Talk to friends, family, and the local fauna as you explore. Be louder and slower when close to water or in low-visibility areas. Be much louder and call out often if you are biking or running. These activities are typically fast and quiet, increasing chances of a close, surprise encounter. Carry bear spray and have it immediately accessible. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid wearing headphones and look for clues a bear is using the space: fresh scat, shredded logs, tracks, natural bear foods. Keep dogs on a close leash to avoid unnecessary pressure to bears, which can force them to feel defensive.

If you see a bear ahead in the distance, calmly leave the area and take an alternate route. Always give bears space and ask others in the area to do the same.

If you meet a bear, be present, stay calm and use a calm voice to identify yourself as human. Say “hey bear” in any language and keep talking to the bear in a calm tone as you slowly leave the area.

If you’re taking food to the beach, forest, or mountains, be sure to never leave anything unattended. It is rare for black bears to approach people for food, but they will take opportunities if we leave food available at campsites, picnic tables and in backpacks. If a black bear approaches, don’t throw your food or pack. Stand your ground and use a firm tone. Black bears understand tone and it is rare for them to continue their approach. If they do, deploy bear spray. Pack up all food and garbage and leave the area. Always use bear-proof garbage containers or preferably, take everything home. Never litter the trails, even with organics, as this encourages bears to spend more time closer to people.

Only camp at authorized sites or you could be pitching your tent on an active wildlife corridor. Avoid a rude awakening and remember that all toiletries and food must be stored securely and away from where you are sleeping. Make the effort to clean your campsite regularly. Sugary odours from empty cans are enough to tempt a bear into your camp whilst you are sleeping.

Bears and other wildlife regularly cross roads and graze by the roadside, so please drive with caution. If you see wildlife when driving, slow down and allow them as much space as possible. Do not approach bears in your vehicle and do adhere to speed limits. Every year bears are killed on North Shore roads; a young male bear has already lost its life in West Vancouver.

Bears are polite and predictable animals. Treat them with respect by allowing them lots of personal space and by respecting their beautiful home. Happy summer from the North Shore Black Bear Society!

Luci Cadman is Executive Director, North Shore Black Bear Society, and a certified bear-viewing guide.

Posted 5/25/2021 Ref # 6347

Mount Fromme trails now open after North Van bear attack

bear attack web
North Vancouver crews attend to a group of hikers, including one who was swiped by a bear on Friday May 21, just before noon

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has reopened the trails on Mount Fromme but they have not yet found the bear that swiped a hiker’s leg on Friday.

“The COS responded with a predator attack team to conduct the investigation, potentially looking into finding a pattern with this bear,” said officer Dean Miller. “Essentially, to date, we have not had any reports of a further sighting or conflict on the mountain.”

Miller said they decided to re-open the trails but are urging caution for anyone on the trails.

“Never hike alone. Go in large groups and make lots of noise,” he said. “Carry some bear spray.”

North Vancouver RCMP and District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services members were called to the seventh switchback of the service road after around noon Friday after a group of hikers call 911.

Fred Hawley, the man who was injured, said he and his wife encountered another woman on the trail already being charged and stalked by the bear.

“And then it charged at us and swiped my leg. Some gnarly cuts but it's OK,” he said.

With his leg bleeding, the bear continued to charge within two or three feet of them, Hawley said.

“The three of us, we all just stayed together. We tried to say ‘Whoa, bear,’ and back away. We would back away one direction down the trail and the bear would circle around to the other side,” he said.

About 30 minutes later, they encountered another woman whom the bear also charged. The four of them grouped together and the bear finally relented and ambled away.

“I was terrified,” Hawley said. “My wife was shockingly calm, calling 911.”

Crews bandaged Hawley’s leg and RCMP members called in the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and escorted everyone off the trails.

The bear is “very likely” the same one North Shore Rescue issued a warning about exactly one year earlier, said Ellie Lamb, North Shore Rescue’s bear behaviour expert and director with the North Shore Black Bear Society.

“We need to understand these animals and their motivations. They are peaceful animals. That’s them by nature,” Lamb said. “It’s kind of unfortunate that he hasn't really learned the lessons that he needs to learn, which is to give people the space that they need.”

Miller said COS will maintain a presence on Fromme and they are asking the public to alert them to any bear sightings.

“We still need to meet our obligations of public safety,” he said, adding that, since the incident on Friday, the COS has had numerous similar reports from other hikers in that area. “It's definitely an aggressive and threatening behaviour. And we know from bears that do take this approach, the behaviour doesn't go down. It typically heightens.”

Lamb said she feels the bear was mostly likely trying to send a message after too many conflicts with hikers and mountain bikers on his patch of earth.

“He was just asking for a little respect for his home,” she said. “He was trying to teach us.”

Young bears often approach people out of curiosity but learn through experience to keep back.

Lamb said she teaches students the best way to deal with a bear that is getting too close is usually to just tell them to back off, in a clear, firm voice.

“Be strong. Be in his face and let him know you're not allowed to get that close – human dominance,” she said.

If the bear doesn’t listen, and it’s safe to do so, take a step closer and give them another firm verbal warning, she said. If that doesn’t work, that’s when having bear spray becomes “extremely important,” Lamb said.

“You don't need to empty the can on him but you give him a hiss of bear spray,” she said. “If he gets any spray anywhere around him, especially his face, his nose, that will cause his senses to just shut down. … When they lose that, they panic.”

Hawley said always brings bear spray with him for backcountry camping but doesn’t usually bother for trails closer to home. That won’t be happening again, he added.

Posted 4/28/2021 Ref # 6346

First North Van bear of the year marked for death

2021 is shaping up to be bad news for bears if the number of early conflicts with humans is any indication, the North Shore Black Bear Society says.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has set up their first trap of the year to catch a large bear in the Braemar neighbourhood that has routinely been breaking into garbage carts.

“They confirmed that the bear will be killed,” said Luci Cadman, executive director of the Black Bear Society. “We’re very disappointed. … We've saturated that area with education.”

According to conservation officer Lonnie Schoenthal, the bear was showing no signs it could be hazed out of residential properties, even with bear bangers and an air horn, and it is likely a bear that has been developing bad habits since last year.

“It’s showing levels of habituation and obvious food conditioning with the amount of garbage it’s going after, rather than natural food sources. It poses a public safety risk. It's a risk that we have to manage as the COS,” he said. “Usually, for a bear, it takes time to get to that point.”

Even before the trap was set, Cadman and volunteers from the Black Bear Society were warning residents in all the usual hotspots across the North Shore that they were getting too many reports of unnecessary conflicts and attractants being left out  garbage carts, compost, outdoor fridges and freezers, bird feeders and pet food dishes.

“It's not looking very good,” she said. “It’s just constant.”

Cadman said the Black Bear Society also opposes killing bears when enforcement should be proactively targeting the people responsible for drawing them into the neighbourhood in the first place.

“Killing that bear is not going to solve a problem for anybody. It’s just going to leave a void that another bear will fill and the cycle just continues,” she said. “It's on residents that are failing to act on their responsibilities and on the Conservation Officer Service for providing this lethal solution … which isn't a solution. It just creates that entitled behaviour. It enables people to not manage wildlife attractants on their property.”

Because the District of North Vancouver’s garbage carts, which are bear resistant and not bear proof, were locked at the time, they are considered “secure” as far as the law is concerned, Schoenthal said.

Late last year, the District of North Vancouver adopted a zero-tolerance approach to residents who leave their garbage carts outside beyond the proscribed hours. Since then, district bylaw officers have issued 387 $100 fines for first-time offenders and 13 $500 tickets for subsequent offences.

Cadman said it is time for the province to revise its approach to wildlife management and training for conservation officers.

“The district bylaw is stronger than the Provincial Wildlife Act,” Cadman said, frustrated.

Beyond keeping properties free of non-natural food sources for bears, Cadman said North Shore residents need to change the way they interact with bears that do show up in local yards. The best response is to stand somewhere safe, make eye contact with the bear and let them know in a firm voice that they have to move on. Banging pots and pans, blasting air horns or setting off bear bangers is not only less effective, it can actually be counterproductive, she added.

“Your voice is the best tool,” she said.

Outside residential areas, Cadman warned that the increasing popularity of local trails is likely driving bears into backyards, looking for a quiet place to spend the day. And illegal trail work, especially on Mount Seymour, is also exacerbating the matter.

“We want people to be respectful and see that chopping down trees and clearing vegetation to make trails, that's having a big impact,” she said.

In 2020, conservation officers shot five North Shore bears, three were killed on the roads by drivers, and one was euthanized after becoming injured in a soccer net.

Residents can make a confidential report of a bear sighting or an attractant on the North Shore Black Bear Society’s Report It webpage.

The Wildlife Alert Reporting Program keeps track and shows whether it’s a sighting or a bear getting into attractants such as garbage and compost, bird feed, pet food and dirty barbecues.

Posted 4/4/2021 Ref # 6348

The Bear Facts: The bears are back in town

a-bear column
Whistler's bears emerging from dens will be looking for fresh shoots and grasses as they get ready for spring and summer.

Hello spring! The flowers are thinking of blooming and our furry neighbourhood bears are emerging from their dens. Expect to see them crossing roads, on trails, and passing through town.

After barely any time resting, black bears are awake—albeit a little sluggish. Adult males are the first to emerge, followed by females, juveniles and lastly, new moms with cubs. Bear cubs born the previous winter (now yearlings) spent a busy season learning, exploring, and navigating life living close to humans. These young bears need to arise well-rested as spring dispersal is looming, and soon, they will live independently of mom.

Winter-killed animals provide important protein for male bears who rise in late winter. Though their diet is 80-per-cent vegetation, black bears have the digestive system of a carnivore and prefer to consume new growth, when young shoots are most nutritious and digestible. Grasses, sedges, dandelions and horsetails are important protein-rich foods that bears will seek out before berries arrive.

During this time of low food availability, new cubs stay nourished thanks to their mother’s rich milk, and adults rely on the fat reserves they built during hyperphagia the previous fall.

In the neighbourhood 

During this first stage of being awake from hibernation, bears are not as consumed by the need to find food as they were in the fall, and they will be mostly seeking out fresh greens. Although our responsibility when we share the landscape with bears begins right now by making sure we have no food available for them around our homes.

Given the opportunity, bears will be tempted by unsecured garbage, pet food, bird feeders and the food delivery order that awaits you at your doorstep. Once consumed, these high-calorie foods will keep bringing bears back to homes, contributing to their untimely and avoidable deaths. 

It is important that we set boundaries by not inviting bears to our homes with food and encouraging them to move on (from a safe place) if they visit. When you see a bear on your property, go to a window or deck and use a firm, persistent tone to encourage them to leave. Bears understand where they are not welcome, providing you are not confusing them with tempting treats.

Bears crossing

Foraging for spring greens brings bears to the roadside, where such food is plentiful. Be alert for all wildlife when driving. If you see a bear on the roadside, slow down and give the bear ample space—but please, do not stop. Approaching bears and turning off our engines contributes to bears feeling more comfortable around vehicles, greatly increasing their chances of being hit.

On the trails

Help to avoid surprise encounters on the trails by making noise with your voice. Whilst the sound of a bear bell is better than silence, it does not travel far or identify you as human. Call out often in a firm tone as you explore. Be slower and louder by water and in low visibility areas.

If you see a bear ahead in the distance, calmly leave the area and take an alternate route. Give bears the space they need to forage and teach their cubs vital survival skills. Be aware of your surroundings in all directions as you leave.

If you encounter a bear: be present, stay calm, talk to them in a calm voice (any language to identify yourself as human), prepare your bear spray and slowly back away. In most cases, when you start speaking to a black bear, they leave the area or climb a tree to safety. Calmly distance yourself.

Bear in mind

Bears are part of our wider community, and though they are particularly visible in Whistler, they are not domesticated. Do not approach them, especially for photographs. Bears won’t appreciate you intentionally encroaching on their personal space—who does!

Every new season offers us an opportunity to show bears that their lives have value by being responsible and respectful residents and visitors of bear country. 

Luci Cadman is certified in bear safety and awareness and is a certified bear-viewing guide with the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of British Columbia. She has been the Education Coordinator for the North Shore Black Bear Society for five years and is now the Executive Director. While bears remain Luci’s first love, she expanded the Society’s educational outreach in 2018 to include coyotes, bobcats and cougars.