Bears are out of hibernation and in the headlines: here’s a news roundup to help you get your bear-ings

Side view of grizzly bear on traffic barrier [Credit: Mark Pollon]

If the lives of bears and humans never overlapped, the world would probably be a simpler place. But Canadians who like getting out into the unpaved parts of our country often find themselves in bear territory, and as we continually expand our urban areas, even city-dwellers sometimes find themselves sharing space with bears.

Now that it’s May, grizzly and black bears have been out of hibernation for several weeks (some awoke more reluctantly than others), and already there have been . . . incidents. Let’s just say, bear encounters are happening. And as these encounters occur, they prompt debate about the best way to coexist with these animals.

In Canada, it’s never the wrong time to talk about bears. So, to help you get in on the conversation, here’s some of the latest bear news.

A BC camper woke up to a bear in his tent

A couple of years ago, a man who was camping along BC’s Capilano River took a video of a bear sniffing outside his tent in the morning. As of this month, that bear has officially been one-upped.

On May 13, in Northern BC, a curious black bear made its way into a camper’s tent in in the night, and the sleeping man inside awoke to the sounds of the massive animal sniffing him.

Upon waking, the man quickly yelled and was able to chase the bear away, but it returned a few hours later and had to be chased away once again.

“You don’t ever want to hear those stories. That’s about a close of a call as you can have,” Sgt. Shawn Brinsky of the BC Conservation Officer service told the CBC.

The bear was deemed to have been conditioned to garbage, and was euthanized the next day. According to Brinsky, its comfort around humans made it a danger.

“What’s uncommon is for a bear to be willing to go into a confined space. That’s a bear that’s become very bold.”

An Alberta biologist is arguing that we should not rehabilitate orphaned grizzlies

A biology professor from the University of Alberta is arguing that rehabilitating orphaned grizzly cubs is pointless and dangerous.

Alberta recently lifted a ban on rehabilitating baby black bears, but Professor Mark Boyce says that the ban on rehabilitating grizzly babies should remain in place.

“If you release a young bear, it’s just not going to live that long, because many of the landscapes are saturated with bears, and a male will kill a cub,” Boyce told the CBC.

Grizzly cub drinking from bottle
This orphan bear, found near Grande Cache, was euthanized under Alberta’s policy banning grizzly cub rehabilitation. [Credit: Kyla Woollard]
He remarked that while the survival of rehabilitated black bears “can occur,” the survival rates for grizzly cubs are extremely low.

A grizzly cub who was recently found near Grande Cache and euthanized by Fish and Wildlife officers reignited the debate over grizzlies, with some rescue groups calling for an end to the ban on rehabilitation.

However, Boyce says that rehabilitated grizzlies become habituated to humans and are much more likely to attack. He says that while the law “can seem terribly cruel,” it is sensible.

“Yes, nature can be cruel, but we should let nature take its course and intervening is where we get ourselves into trouble.”

Grizzly bear spotted perched on major highway traffic barrier 

As bears come out of hibernation, humans are advised to steer clear — sometimes literally.

A grizzly bear that climbed onto a traffic barrier on Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park was a reminder to motorists that bears can show up anywhere.

View from behind of grizzly bear on traffic barrier
[Credit: Mark Pollon]
In one of the passing cars happened to be photographer Mike Pollan, who grabbed his camera and took some amazing shots of the balancing bear.

“I have never seen anything like this before and was able to capture some stunning images of the bear tight-roping the barricade,” Pollon told CBC News.

“I was the passenger in a car so [the photos were] taken safely from a moving vehicle. We didn’t come to a stop, which makes the images even more amazing.”

The region where the photos were taken is a no-stopping zone, an 11-kilometre stretch of road where motorists are not allowed to stop their vehicles. These zone was established to prevent people from feeding and interacting with wildlife.

The bear in the photos was known to Parks Canada officials, and had been fed by humans on more than one occasion last year. Feeding bears makes them more likely to approach people for food, which can lead to dangerous situations.

Pollon released his photos of the bear in part to remind the public that bears are now active, and the best policy is always to steer clear.

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