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Grizzly bears sighted near qathet region elementary school

Conservation service suspects two young bears in the Edgehill area
Grizzly bear sightings have been reported in the Edgehill Elementary School area and conservation officers are advising people to exercise caution and avoid wooded areas if possible. The conservation service is working to live capture the suspected pair of grizzly bears to take them to an uninhabited area. Getty image

Residents in the Edgehill Elementary School area are advised to be careful outdoors after the sighting of a suspected couple of grizzly bears in the area.

Sergeant Dean Miller of the BC Conservation Officer Service said the conservation service wanted to get some safety messaging out to the community.

“We first became aware of the possibility of grizzly bears last week in the Powell River area,” said Miller. “On Tuesday [April 19] we received a call from the elementary school reporting that there had been an early morning and evening sighting near the school grounds.

“We are fully aware that grizzly bears can come into communities – it’s not very often – they may come and find that the atmosphere is not very welcoming and they just kind of take off. This, however, sounds like a habitual pattern, where the bears are being seen more frequently in that area."

Miller said the school area is on the forest edge, it has lots of trails around the area, and so the bears have easy access.

“It seems like the frequency of the times they are being seen would suggest there is some habitual behaviour,” he added. “We’re 80 per cent certain that there are two bears. We are fairly certain they are between two and three years old, so most likely, they are sibling bears.

“Sometimes, when the bears are kicked out of the family unit and disperse, they stay together as siblings for foraging, protection and basic survival, until they separate, which eventually happens. As we know with juvenile carnivores, they are trying to find their way. The fact that they are on the urban edge would suggest they may have gotten a food reward and they are sticking to that area because it can help feed them.”

Miller said conservation service officers have been door knocking and the school is taking safety precautions. He said what the conservation service is strategizing, because grizzly bears are a fragile population on the coast, and because the bears are young and not showing signs of aggressive behaviour, is to capture and move them.

“What the public really needs to know is that in that area, especially, if they are going out at night, to make some noise outside of their house,” said Miller. “People should announce their presence.”

He also advised keeping dogs in a contained area or on a leash is important because bear encounters with dogs are never good for the dog, and sometimes can be negative for the owner.

Miller said the other advice is to avoid using trail systems in the neighbourhood. He said if people absolutely have to be on the trails, they should carry air horns, be in groups, and carry bear spray.

“We’ve spent two nights attempting to live capture the bears, with no luck so far,” said Miller. “We are going to continue with the public safety messaging.”

Miller said grizzly bear sightings are uncommon in the Powell River area. There are established populations not that far away, but there are a lot of forested areas between those bears and the populated parts of qathet region, he added.

“This might be a sign of populations expanding a bit,” said Miller. “What we see with black or grizzly bears is the younger, less dominant bears get pushed around and sometimes they are just trying to find a territory.

“We’re hoping that the sightings don’t create fear, but create caution and that people use bear aware protocols.”