Waking up to a bear right outside the tent is something we’ve all imagined while curling up in our sleeping bags late at night, but for one Vancouver resident, it was a reality.
David Weale was camping along the Capilano River in late July when he woke up to find a black bear sniffing around his tent. There was only a thin piece of mesh separating him and the bear, but he did his best to stay calm.
He captured the terrifying encounter on video, which shows the bear breaking the tent’s support poles, turning it into an even flimsier hiding place.
“I could feel that he wasn’t aggressive, he was more just curious, so that’s why I didn’t get too worked up,” Weale told CTV News. Instead, he decided to set some smoothies outside of the tent to distract the bear, who had been wandering the campsite and blocking his way out for about 30 minutes.
“[The bear] just went down and started licking out the smoothie like a dog would,” Weale told Global News, and that’s when he made a slow exit from the site.
Tony Webb, from the North Shore Black Bear Network, told CTV that you should never run or turn your back on a bear. He says that remaining calm, as Weale did, was the right thing to do, and likely aided in his escape.
But not everyone was happy with Weale’s approach. After posting the video to Youtube, he received a number of angry comments.
“This is extremely irresponsible. You shouldn’t be camping in bear country if you are not going to exercise basic wildlife safety and respect,” one person wrote.
“…a bear that looses fear of man is a dead bear walking,” wrote another.
According to WildSafe BC coordinator Frank Ritcey, bears can become habituated from food rewards very quickly, and that can cause big problems. Once bears lose their natural fear of humans, they’re more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour, and officials are often forced to step in.
“It’s extremely frustrating for us,” Sergeant Todd Hunter, with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, told Global News. “We’ve had to destroy a number of bears this year and a lot of the issues could’ve been prevented.”
But bears aren’t the only wildlife that’s suffered from reckless campers not storing or disposing of their food properly. This summer, Parks Canada was forced to kill two wolves that repeatedly showed bold behaviour after they became habituated to food left out at campgrounds in Banff National Park.
It was a tough spot to be in, but if Weale had kept his smoothies in an airtight container, the bear may have never showed up on his campsite in the first place. Recognizing where he went wrong, Weale told Global News that he hopes others can learn from his mistake.