Hun­gry bears ‘dan­ger­ous’

Camp­ground closed af­ter bears charged at campers

StarMetro Vancouver - - NEWS - Wanyee li

With sum­mer weather in full swing in B.C.’s south coast, author­i­ties are urg­ing peo­ple to clean up af­ter them­selves when they visit the prov­ince’s parks be­cause not do­ing so could lead to some deadly con­se­quences.

One pop­u­lar camping and hik­ing spot near Pem­ber­ton, Key­hole Falls, has al­ready been closed as of May 10 af­ter sev­eral bears charged peo­ple in the area.

That kind of be­hav­iour could quickly es­ca­late, said B.C. recreation of­fi­cer, Alis­tair McCrone.

“There is a sow with two cubs who has sev­eral times charged and chased peo­ple un­til they drop their back­packs and then they go through their back­packs for their food. It’s one step away from that bear at­tack­ing some­one in pur­suit of that food,” said the for­mer park ranger.

There are about five adult bears that fre­quent the area and go straight into peo­ple’s tents or to­ward peo­ple in search of food, he said.

“It’s order of mag­ni­tudes more dan­ger­ous than any­thing I’ve seen be­fore.”

This is not the first time in re­cent years author­i­ties have had to shut down trails or camp­grounds due to ag­gres­sive bears — author­i­ties closed both Key­hole Falls and High Falls Recreation Site last sum­mer due to peo­ple leav­ing food and garbage around, ac­cord­ing to McCrone.

Key­hole Falls was open for a brief time af­ter the spring melt but it soon be­came ev­i­dent peo­ple were still leav­ing food un­se­cured and the bears had not for­got­ten where they could get snacks last year.

It has be­come a “life or death” sit­u­a­tion, said McCrone.

“If you’re in the area, you may very well be at­tacked by the bears. You may or may not sur­vive that type of in­ci­dent.”

Con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer Brit­tany Mueller says it’s a po­ten­tially deadly sit­u­a­tion for the bears, too.

“If their be­hav­iour scales up, they would be killed. We don’t want to have to do that.”

With the stakes so high, she says it’s frus­trat­ing when peo­ple don’t seem to un­der­stand the mes­sage of “pack in, pack out.”

“It’s re­ally hard for us af­ter we go to these sites af­ter a long week­end and there is tons of garbage left out.”

Lo­cal author­i­ties at Cul­tus Lake are see­ing a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion play out, said Chilli­wack city coun­cil­lor, Sam Wadding­ton.

“It’s an on­go­ing is­sue and it seems to be get­ting worse,” he said.

“You’ve got peo­ple leav­ing bags of chips, cloth­ing, baby bot­tles, cans out on the docks and it’s a moun­tain lake and the wind will blow this garbage into the lake and it sinks.”

Vol­un­teer scuba divers clean up the lake sev­eral times a year and res­i­dents pick up garbage on the shore and dock — it piles up to ap­prox­i­mately three tonnes of garbage ev­ery year, said Wadding­ton.

That fra­grant garbage is the smell of din­ner to a bear, said Mueller.

“There is a lot of wildlife out there and bears are food driven and they will seek out food sources. They have an in­cred­i­bly good sense of smell.”

Con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers have had to kill sev­eral bears and cougars at Cul­tus Lake over the years be­cause they started to as­so­ciate hu­mans with food, said Wadding­ton. He hopes that can be avoided this year, and that starts with keep­ing the area clean.

“These are the places we’re sup­posed to go out and en­joy pris­tine na­ture and ed­u­cate our kids and show vis­i­tors how beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral Bri­tish Columbia is,” he said.

“I don’t un­der­stand the men­tal process that leads to some­one to say, I’m go­ing to drive an hour and a half to get to this pris­tine place and then I’m go­ing to make it ugly.”

If their be­hav­iour scales up, they would be killed. we don’t want to have to do that. BRIT­TANY MUELLER

Jonathan hay­ward/the cana­dian press

A camp­ground near Pem­ber­ton has closed af­ter bears charged at campers in pur­suit of food.

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