With bear activity higher than usual for this time of year, local expert Ross Davies advises on what to do when one encounters a bear.
Davies, education coordinator for Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, said the high activity is related to food sources, particularly because of a poor berry crop caused by a late winter.
In response, Davies stationed himself at Kanaka Creek Regional Park fish fence in Maple Ridge this week on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon to advise visitors on what to do if they come across a black bear in the area.
The most important thing, Davies said, is to keep a distance of at least 100 metres.
If one happens to be closer than 100 metres, move back and give the animal that space.
One of the other things that Davies stresses the most is to use caution when taking a photo.
“If you want to take a picture, go ahead but use a camera with a really good zoom lens on it. Cellphone camera is not a good idea,” he said. That means keeping your distance and staying out of the dense bush, he reiterates.
It’s an offence to harass or approach a bear that’s otherwise acting normally, causing it to alter its behaviour, Davies added.
The fish fence at 240th Street is a popular spot for bears to roam. Davies has been following the multiple bears in the area, and has become familiar with their behaviours and movements. A snow fence and additional signage was put up three weeks ago, deterring visitors from going into the forest.
He said that even though the bears in the area are comfortable around humans, it does not automatically mean that they are dangerous, although they could be. Black bears are known to be timid and can, at times, be quite oblivious to their surroundings, according to Davies.
But, “People [must] stay where bears expect people to be,” he said.
And wandering into the forest looking for the bears is more likely to result in an unpleasant encounter.
Instead, respect the animal’s space and stick to the trails and roads that are marked for the public’s use.
Davies, who has many years of experience working with the animals and knows the bears in the area, said that even he won’t venture into their habitat for any reason.
Davies lives on the Alouette River and has had many sightings in his own area as well.
The closest he came to a bear was when he was at home and he felt something graze the top of his head. It was a bear that had just jumped over him after Davies had spooked it.
They both escaped injury free.
Because humans stand taller than bears, bears are threatened by people, and if cornered, they will defend themselves, Davies said.
If you find a bear in your backyard, the best thing to deter it is to grab some pots and pans and make some noise.
“You have to show them that this is your den,” Davies said.
The bears have never showed any aggression here, he added.
“The messaging we seem to be getting from the bears is, to be consistent and keep your distance,” he said.
They’ve been very consistent with us, so humans should return the favour and be just as consistent back.
“We would hate to see bears relocated from here. To where? This is their home.”