Listening to the media the last couple of weeks, you’d think B.C. was under siege by big bad bears. The media definitely loves to blow scenarios out of proportion.
The story that definitely caught my attention was Mr. Smith, who was jogging on the Mushroom Parking Lot Trail on Seymour Mountain and came upon a standing bear.
From media accounts, Mr. Smith stopped and clapped his hands, from here the story is a little suspicious — as are most bear encounters.
Working with bears with the Ministry of Natural Resources, over 98 per cent of reports from hikers stating they were stalked or charged was either deemed improper translation or a misrepresentation of the bears activity.
A prime example of this is bears traveling hiking trails. Instead of hikers backing off the trail to let the bear wander by, they back track, the bear continues it’s direction on the trail as bears take the easiest path, thus the perception of a stalking bear.
Returning to Mr. Smith’s bear, a standing bear is usually a bear attempting to find a scent, in this case it was the jogger, quite possibly downwind, and thus the bear standing searching for a scent.
The next action was the clapping of hands, this in itself may not be an issue, but as I’ve discussed previously with thousands of encounters of more than thirty-plus years of chasing bears, I’ve never clapped or yelled at a bear.
Standing perfectly quiet or speaking in a calm voice with a stressed or startled bear has always worked.
With the cold spring, late berry crops and snow covering forage later than normal, that would mean a higher level of stress for bears.
Let the bear — in this case a standing bear — go through it’s decision making process. Yelling or threatening — which includes clapping — a stressed bear may actually trigger an aggressive act. Always start with a passive approach by either removing yourself from the vicinity and speaking in a calm voice to let the bear know who you are.
If this doesn’t work, then step up your activity to let the bear know who’s the boss and alter the behaviour of the animal in question, don’t start with aggressive acts.
The first media report noted Mr. Smith ran and then was chased by the bear. You don’t run!
The question which may never be answered is: did he run after the clapping failed to chase the bear off? Did this precipitate the chase? In the end the bear was destroyed.
In some cases there may be justification, but there are too many unanswered questions in this case.
This spring and early summer we’ve dealt with a few snarky bears. One we met on a trail last week.
We backed off the trail, but he decided to follow us.
In this case we became more aggressive —HOW? —in our behaviour which sent him scurrying off.
In another case a bear yawned a few times, sign of low level of stress. When we backed off 20 paces, he stopped yawning and resumed his activity.
It seems B.C. is under siege by big bad bear stories created by big bad humans that display inappropriate bad bear behaviour towards B.C.’s beautiful bears.