A person walking through Coho Park in Garibaldi Estates is lucky to get away with only minor cuts and scrapes after a black bear charged.
The area is taped off and conservation officers are asking the public to stay out to avoid further human-wildlife conflicts, especially since multiple bears are in the area to eat the salmon.
“The bear did make contact that resulted in wounds to the person’s forearms,” said Christina Moore with the District of Squamish, adding that this isn’t considered an attack because the bear was in its natural environment when it charged.
This time, the bear was a black bear but grizzly bears, which tend to be larger and not as scared of humans, could be lured into Squamish due to the influx of salmon and people not disposing of their garbage properly.
Conservation officers are warning that sightings of grizzly bears are on the rise in Sea to Sky backcountry. This year, a dozen grizzly bears were spotted, up from six last year.
“Grizzly bears tend to stand their ground, while black bears will run away or climb a tree for safety,” said conservation officer Tim Schumacher. “Grizzly bears are bigger animals and they are involved in more human fatalities, although both kinds of bears are dangerous.”
So far there have been a couple unconfirmed sightings in the Squamish Estuary, but nowhere else in town limits. In total, 59 grizzly bears live from Howe Sound to Pemberton Meadows.
While the population of black bears is healthy, grizzly bears are threatened. Schumacher doesn’t want any to be lured into town due to residents not storing garbage properly or not picking their fruit trees.
In 2014, a grizzly died after being relocated three times from the Squamish dump. It likely died due to the stress of being tranquilized and moved, said Schumacher.
“The last thing we want is another grizzly bear getting used to being around people. They are a threatened population so we need to prevent this from happening,” said Schumacher, who recommends bringing bear spray on trips into the backcountry.
Schumacher said it’s important for hunters, who are allowed to hunt black bears until the end of November and again from April 1 to June 15, to know how to tell the difference between the two kinds of bear so a grizzly isn’t accidentally shot.
Many people think size and colour are good indicators, but these characteristics aren’t always reliable.
Generally, a grizzly has a distinctive shoulder hump and black bears don’t. A grizzly’s rump is lower and its ears are short and rounded, not tall and pointed like a black bear.
If you see claw marks in tracks then it is most likely a grizzly bear print.
Fifty-five per cent of black bear sightings are due to them getting into residential garbage.
Tips from WildSafeBC:
• Store garbage in a secure building until collection day.
• Regularly wash all recycling items and clean the bins that contain garbage or recycling.
• Do not leave garbage in the back of a truck, even if it has a canopy.
• If you cannot store garbage securely, freeze smelly items and add to the bin only on the morning of collection.
Fruit trees also need to be properly taken care of:
• Pick fruit and allow it to ripen indoors or pick daily as they ripen. Do not allow fruit to accumulate on the ground.
• If you do not want the fruit, prune the tree vigorously to prevent blossoms or spray spring blossoms with a garden hose to knock them off.
• If you no longer want to manage your tree, consider replacing it with a native, non-fruit bearing variety.
If you see a bear you believe to be a grizzly, call conservation officers at 1-877-952-7277.