Black bear spotted emerging from den early in Northwest Territories

Black bear on Highway 3

While bears are just starting to wake up in southern regions of the country, one was already spotted crossing a highway in the North West Territories.

Hay River resident George Bugghins was driving from Yellowknife to his hometown earlier this month when he spotted the bear hobbling across Highway 3.

“I thought it was a buffalo, but just for the fun of it I told the old lady, ‘Hey, look at that bear,’ and sure enough when we got close enough, it was a bear,” Bugghins told CBC News.

When the bear came out of the bush, it just barely made it across the road. According to Bugghins, it fell four times trying to cross the highway.

After capturing the encounter on video, he continued driving to Fort Providence, where he stopped to report what he’d seen to local wildlife officials.

According to reports, a wildlife officer went out and followed the tracks of the bear Bugghins spotted that day. Apparently, after a few hundred feet, the bear turned around and went back to where it came from.

It might sound like strange behaviour, but according to Tony Vermillion, a wildlife and environment manager for the South Slave region, it’s pretty typical.

He told CBC that bears often make brief ventures out of their dens during the winter and in early spring. They might be disturbed by a noise or another animal, or they might want to get out and stretch because it’s a warm day.

What’s more strange, according to Vermillion, is that Bugghins was around to see it.

But the bear’s clumsy falls didn’t concern him either.

“Bears tend to lose a lot of padding on their feet [during hibernation], so their feet are fairly sensitive. Even in the spring, after the snow melts, they tend to walk a little different until they build up the callouses on their feet,” Vermillion told reporters. “It’s just like walking around with no shoes on.”