It will come as little surprise to most Maple Ridge residents that they share the land they live on with a healthy bear population.
A pair of sightings towards the end of last week in Kanaka Creek Regional Park lead local conservation officers to recommend the trails near Rainbow Bridge be closed for a few days.
Nicole Caithness, a conservation officer for the Fraser North Zone, said there are a couple different yearling or sub-adult bears dispersing in the area.
“It’s very common this time of year. Their mom is trying to kick them out, so they have to fend for themselves, and so they’ve been travelling a lot trying to find their own home range.
She said there were instances on Thursday (June 4) and Saturday (June 6) where hikers reported having encounters with these yearlings, in which the bears were walking down the same trails as people.
“There was no aggression, and there wasn’t any predatory behaviour or anything of concern,” Caithness clarified. “So we just recommended that Metro Vancouver Parks do a short term closure of the trails, just to give the yearlings some space to disperse and try and avoid that conflict.”
The trails re-opened on Wednesday morning but Caithness said, this time of year, it is always important for hikers to have their wits about them.
“We’re trying to make sure the public’s aware that there’s always going to be bears in Kanaka,” she said. “It’s excellent habitat for them, so the public should always be mindful when they’re out walking with their dogs in that park.
It is imperative that dogs be leashed in the forested areas in Maple Ridge, she noted.
“It’s not just for the bears,” the officer said. “There are cougars, there are coyotes, there’s all sorts of wildlife in that park, and off-leash dogs can trigger negative encounters with pretty much any wild animal, so it’s super important that people keep their dogs on a leash at all times.”
While young bears are not looking to come into conflict with humans, Caithness says any wild animal can be unpredictable.
“People just need to keep their heads about them,” she said. “If they see a bear, speak to it in a calm tone, like, ‘Hey bear, whoa bear,’ and just move out of the area slowly.
“Just give the bear plenty of space to move along on it’s way and that should help avoid most encounters,” she said. “And if the bear is being a little pushy or seeming to approach people, we definitely recommend people carry bear spray when they’re out walking and know how to use it as well.”