PORT HARDY—An 81-year-old Port Hardy woman appears to have created a bear spray made entirely of water.
Early afternoon, the spray successfully completed its first field test — in her living room.
Jessie Roland, an artist and bed-and-breakfast proprietor who first came to Port Hardy in 1937, had just emerged from her bath and sat down at a small table to brush her hair when she heard a noise in the room. Turning, she saw a yearling black bear that had strolled in through her back door, which was left open to cool the house on a warm, sunny day.
“I jumped up and bellowed; I’m sure the neighbours heard,” said Roland, “And I grabbed the water bottle which was right handy.”
A spray-top water bottle was right handy?
“Well, we’ve got a very ugly cat in the neighbourhood that comes around and tunes up on our cats,” she said. “I keep the bottle to chase him off.”
Continuing to yell, she got out of her chair and advanced on the bear, spraying it repeatedly with a narrow jet of water as she moved.
“I ran at him,” Roland said. “Well, I can’t run — I’m 81 — and he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to go at first.”
Roland’s persistence paid off, and the bruin finally turned and lumbered through the back door and down several steps of her deck to the yard below.
There, Roland said, the bear stopped its flight and stopped to investigate her compost drum. And at that point, she called off her own charge and secured her doors and ground-level windows.
“I was shaking so badly,” said Roland. “There was nobody to call. My son lives in the house next door but he wasn’t home, and the girl who stays with me wasn’t here. I finally thought I better call my neighbour to let her know there was a bear nosing around outside.”
This wasn’t Roland’s first close encounter with a black bear. Indeed it wasn’t even the closest encounter. Once, when her son was out of town and she was walking between the homes to feed his pets, she came face-to-face with a bear at dusk.
“I was so close I could smell his breath,” she said. “I yelled that time, too, and we both took off running. Fortunately, we were running in opposite directions.”
Roland expects Monday’s unscheduled visit won’t be her last bear sighting, though she does hope she and the bears remain on opposite sides of the windowpane in the future.
“We get bears here all the time,” she said. “We have a regular path that goes through here.”