Hungry bears ‘dangerous’
Campground closed after bears charged at campers
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
A campground near Pemberton has closed after bears charged at campers in pursuit of food.