Bears: Spring brings increased encounters with bear cubs
British Columbia cyclist Kevin Milner was turning a downhill corner on a North Vancouver trail last Monday night when he hit another rider crossing in front of him.
The collision – which sent Milner flying and left him with a broken shoulder blade, contusion heart and other injuries – did not involve a car or another cyclist. Milner’s bike had boned a black bear.
“The last thing I saw of the bear before the crash was just him running. I can see his muscles as he charged across the road, and I just hit right behind the shoulder blade and then kind of threw myself over him,” said Milner, who expects it to take six weeks to recover.
Milner’s accident on the Seymour Demonstration Forest trail was unusual, but authorities warn that with spring in full swing, bears across British Columbia are coming out of their dens and encountering humans are on the rise.
Shelley Fiorito, community coordinator for the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District in British Columbia’s southern interior, said her phone was already buzzing with people sharing their interactions with bears.
“We’ve had a couple of really hot spells over the past two weeks, so it’s all getting nice and green in the valley bottom,” Fiorito said.
“Wildlife is coming down, especially the bears when they come out of the den, they’re looking for forage and water sources.”
Fiorito said disasters such as wildfires and floods can also affect how wildlife moves through the area, leading to more potential human encounters with bears.
The district said bear-human interactions there reached new heights in 2022.
Meanwhile, statistics from the BC Conservation Officer Service show that 479 black bears were killed by its agents in the past year ending April.
Fiorito said a spike in bear sightings could be linked to an increase in people working from home as a result of the pandemic, adding to food waste in the garbage that could attract the animals.
“Trash is a great thing, but bird feeders, especially birdseed, are a calorie-dense meal for bears looking to replenish body fat,” she said.
Bears can smell five times better than dogs, the district said in a news release. His tips for avoiding attracting bears to a neighborhood include freezing smelly food scraps, removing bird feeders, and storing all trash in a secure area.
Ellie Lamb, director of community outreach for the Get Bear Smart Society, said the bears are active in May, as mother bears show off their cubs around fishing grounds and feeding grounds.
“It could be anywhere in her home range where she lives and she teaches these young bears how to survive, who to watch out for,” Lamb said.
Extra precautions are needed around mother bears, Lamb said.
She said hikers who encounter bears on a forest trail should give them space by walking away from the trail and letting the bears pass, with bear spray in hand, she said .
“My teaching is to not be afraid of them and to respect them and give them space,” said Lamb, whose organization aims to minimize the number of bears killed as a result of interactions with them. humans.
Still, she says, it’s important to set boundaries.
“Tell them what is acceptable and what is not.”
Cyclist Milner didn’t have that option in the split second before crashing into the bear, who he said appeared unscathed as he munched on the grass after their collision.
He attributes the painful encounter to bad luck.
“It’s just kind of a hard-to-avoid situation. I mean, if you were driving your car and say a bear or a deer is jumping down the highway, (there’s only) so many things you can do, right?”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 21, 2023. This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.
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