What do you do if you run into a black bear on the Valley Trail?
As most locals know, the best course of action is to stay calm, give what’s typically a pretty relaxed bear lots of space and head back in the direction you came, if possible.
But what do you do if that bear starts following you—closely?
One TikTok user whose filmed encounter with a Whistler black bear recently went viral on the video-sharing platform figured it out, despite the stressful situation, said Sea to Sky-based conservation officer Sgt. Simon Gravel.
The three-and-a-half minute video posted to TikTok by @jenniferpierce2021 shows a small black bear with dark, cinnamon coloured fur walking along a section of Whistler’s Valley Trail, following the camera from only a few feet away. The person filming appears to be walking briskly backwards away from the bear, speaking firmly and, at times, yelling at the animal. A witness appears to offer back-up from further behind the camera, but the bear remains largely undeterred by the yells.
“I hike all the time in the bush. Today I took a leisurely walk in Whistler, BC,” the TikTok user captioned the video, posted on a Monday, June 13. “Mr. fluffy bear comes from the bush and sniffs my leg. Follows me for 4 min!”
The video has racked up nearly 25,000 views and more than 1,000 comments.
The encounter was “a very unusual situation,” said Gravel.
“We're happy that nothing happened and it doesn't appear that the bear made any contact with a person and there’s no injury.
“It’s a very curious bear,” he continued. “We can only speculate with you, but there's multiple reasons why a bear could behave like this.”
Gravel cautioned locals and visitors against approaching bears for photos or trying to feed the animals.
“You should not make a black bear comfortable around humans,” he said.
Based off the short clip Gravel watched, the people in the video handled the situation well, he said.
“I salute their calmness,” he said. “Some people might want to run, and that would be something to not do … because it can trigger the bear’s instinct to chase.
He added, “just calmly talk[ing] to the bear and making yourself big and showing them you’re not there to provide them with a reward … would be the general advice, but every situation is different,” he said, adding, “Don’t play dead.”
All in all, the bear's behaviour as seen in the footage "is not suitable," said Gravel.
"It's not something we'd like to see from a bear—we like them having some kind of level of wariness [around] humans, and not following them or appearing to seek any food rewards” he continued. “It is concerning behavior and we're monitoring closely and we hope that nothing will escalate.”