B.C. bear attack prompts new warnings from officers
Sunday, August 21, 2016, 1:59 PM - A bear attack that sent a 10-year-old girl to the hospital in British Columbia last weekend has prompted new warnings from wildlife officers to be mindful of the creatures as the summer wears on.
The girl was out with her father and grandfather after a swim in the Coquitlam river when the group encountered a black bear with her cub. In the subsequent attack, the girl was hospitalized with "critical" injuries, but was in good spirits Monday, according to a report in the Toronto Sun.
The bear was destroyed by wildlife officers, and the cub taken to a rehabilitation centre.
Residents of nearby Port Coquitlam told CBC the animal had been a regular feature in the area, raiding compost bins for food, and presumably becoming used to being around humans.
While people are often told to watch out for bears in the spring as they emerge from hibernation, the onset of summer is no reason to relax your guard.
Data collected by the B.C. Conservation Officer Service for past years show that, while there is a spike in the spring, officers are called in to handle bears most often in the late summer, with August, September and October accounting the most amount of calls.
Number of calls received for Black Bears, 2015:
Mike Badry, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service's Wildlife Conflict Manager, told The Weather Network human-bear interactions are influenced by both the level of human activity, and food availability.
"We see the highest level of incidents in the summer months when people are most active outdoors and bears are entering hyperphagia, a period of intense caloric demand that prepares them for denning," Badry said by email.
He added other factors can come into play as well. For instance, spring encounters may be higher if the season has started late, and high snowpacks keep bears at lower elevations for longer periods. Fall can see a rise in risk if food sources such as berries or salmon are harder to come by that season.
While the bear in last weekend's attack was killed by officers, Badry said the decision to destroy an attacking bear is based on the reason behind the attack, and whether there's a risk the bear will be aggressive or threatening in the future.
"If the attack is predatory in nature then all attempts will be made to destroy that animal, as it is considered a high risk to public safety," Badry says. "If it is a defensive attack -- protection of cubs, food source or space -- and there is no evidence that the animal would otherwise be a threat to people, they will not be destroyed. In this case, other management techniques can be used including education, trail closures, et cetera."
The consequences for bears can be dire if humans don't take steps to deter them from getting used to being around inhabited areas. Just last week, nine bears had to be destroyed in the Revelstoke area, and a conservation officer told the CBC that residents hadn't done enough to deter habituation.
"This is a problem that is avoidable. It didn't have to begin in the first place," Dan Bartol told the CBC Monday. "We have done a lot of work proactively along with the town and the Bear Aware Society to prevent issues like this and people just aren't taking note I believe."
As for whether the destroyed animal was a female with cubs, or cubs are found abandoned, Badry says they may be sent on to a rehabilitation facility, with the eventual goal to prepare them to be released back into the wild.
"In order to be candidates for rehabilitation and release the cubs must have low levels of human habituation and food conditioning, and be in good health -- i.e. of adequate size for that age class with no serious injuries or obvious illnesses," Badry says.
If you're out and about, here's what you can do to avoid running afoul of bears:
- Make sure someone knows your plans. Before your trip, leave names, trip plans and date of return with friends or family.
- Carry bear spray and a noise maker. Before leaving home read the instructions. Carry the bear spray in a belt holster or somewhere where you can access it immediately. Do not carry the bear spray inside your backpack.
- Go with friends. Bears are less likely to approach people in groups. Check each other's position often and remember that the larger the group, the less likely a bear will hang around.
- Keep young children close to you. Children can be particularly at risk because they are small and make erratic movements.
- If you hike with a dog, keep it on a leash. Your dog should be leashed and under control at all times. An unleashed dog can lead an irritated bear back to you and your friends.
- Make noise. Talk loudly, sing or let out occasional warning shouts. This will alert bears to your approach so you are less likely to cause a surprise encounter. Remember that other sounds, such as flowing rivers and streams and strong winds, can drown out the noise you make. Be extra noisy at these times.
- Be alert when in wildlife travel corridors. Rivers and streams, trails and access routes, are common travel corridors for wildlife, including bears. Be cautious when you are in these areas.
- Avoid areas with typical bear food sources. These include berry patches, grain fields, garbage pits, beehives and anywhere you can see an animal carcass.
- Watch for fresh bear signs. If the signs look like they were made recently, quickly and calmly leave the area. Signs of bear activity include: Diggings, droppings, fresh carcasses, tracks, overturned rocks, scratched logs, torn-up ant hills,
- Watch for crows, ravens, magpies or jays. These birds often indicate the presence of an animal carcass that may also attract a bear.
- Avoid being out at dusk, night or dawn. Although bear encounters can happen at any time of day, bears are most active at dusk, night and dawn.
If you Encounter a Bear:
- Do not run. Stay calm. Stay with your group and keep children close. Assess the situation.
- Look around. If you see cubs or an animal carcass, the bear will want to protect them. If you see either, back away from them.
- Don’t attract attention. Leave the way you came without calling attention to yourself. Retreat slowly while keeping your eye on the bear. Never run.
- If you must move forward, give the bear a wide berth. If you have no choice but to move forward, give the bear as much space as you can.
- Speak to the bear in a soft, low voice. Let the bear know that you are human and not a prey animal.
- Watch for a place to hide. As you back away, seek out a place of safety, such as a car or building.
- Stay quiet and alert. Even if you think you are a safe distance away from the bear, remain quiet, alert and calm. Continue watching for the bear until you reach your destination.
- Prepare to use your bear spray.
Here's how to avoid attracting bears:
Never feed bears or any wildlife. Fed bears quickly become conditioned to food sources and will teach their cubs to approach people to get these inappropriate food rewards.
Manage bear and wildlife attractants around your house, worksite and campsite responsibly:
- Keep all garbage securely stored until collection day. Store attractants in a sturdy building or place in, an approved bear-resistant trash receptacle.
- Keep bird feeders down until December. Keep the ground free of seeds.
- Keep BBQs clean and free from odours. Burn off the grill every time after use and clean out the grease traps. Store with other attractants such as livestock/pet feed and garbage inside a sturdy building.
- Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily (consider electric fencing). Remove unused fruit trees.
- Secure your gardens, backyard chickens and beehives (consider electric fencing).
- Store all your feed in a secure location and ensure feeding areas are clean and free of attractants.
- Feed pets indoors.
- Manage compost properly. Don't add meat products or cooked food to compost, turn it regularly and keep it covered (consider electric fencing).
- Install motion detecting lights around entrances and walkways.
- When camping, store food in bear resistant containers or by hanging 10 feet off the ground.
- Camp at least 100 yards away from your food storage and cooking area.