A bear in Wildwood appears to be smarter than the average bear, and has figured out how to open car doors.
Powell River conservation officer Andrew Anaka said he is aware of a bear that has been inside vehicles. He said he has received a number of calls regarding a bruin in the Wildwood neighbourhood that has been opening up vehicle doors.
“I’ve had nobody mention anything about damage,” said Anaka. “The first complaint I received, the bear got in and got a bag of corn chips. That was his reward.
“After that, people haven’t had anything that would interest a bear other than a drop of double-double coffee in a used coffee cup or a package of gum. He might just very well be opening car doors because he got rewarded once or twice and got it figured out.”
The good news is that the only damage has been a few footprints and some slobber.
“That’s about the extent of it so far,” said Anaka.
He said as a result of the complaints, a trap was set for a brief period of time before Anaka had to leave town for an assignment. The bear was not captured.
“There’s lots and lots of bears in Wildwood so I wouldn’t even know if I got the right bear,” said Anaka. “He has shown no aggression towards people and has done no property damage, so in fact, I’m not even sure it meets our criteria for being removed from the population.”
There have been reports of as many as five bears in the Wildwood area, according to the conservation officer.
“I know there’s at least five because a gentleman reported five bears in his yard at one time,” said Anaka.
He said the best advice is to not have anything left in vehicles and to ensure car doors are locked.
“Don’t leave so much as a stick of chewing gum or a used coffee cup in your vehicle, and lock it up,” said Anaka.
He said the bear’s behaviour is unusual but not unheard of. He said he hears about bears entering vehicles every year in other zones of the province.
None of the complaints Anaka has received this year have involved aggression.
“These are just bears doing bear stuff amongst people that they really should not be doing,” said Anaka. “They’ve been conditioned already to look for food among people. We have to be cautious with our vehicles, not leaving food. As well, a number of the complaints have been associated with garbage, so we have to make sure our garbage isn’t stored outside.
“I’ve had a couple of calls in Wildwood, as well, where bears have opened freezers outside. Again, freezers shouldn’t be left outdoors. It’s just a lunch bucket for a bear. There’s not enough metal to keep a bear out.”
Anaka reminded residents that if there are incidents, they can phone the Report All Poachers and Polluters number, which is 877.952.7277, and report wildlife-human interaction where public safety may be at risk. If it is of an immediate nature they can contact the RCMP.
Bill Bird, president of Wildwood Ratepayers Association, said his concern is not so much the bears, but the people. He said how they look after their garbage is the biggest issue.
“Leaving garbage, or food, or scraps of paper that smell like food in cars is a problem,” said Bird. “There have been more than half a dozen cars broken into. This bear knows how to open doors. He’s not even breaking in.”
Bird said that through the Wildwood ratepayers, there is an email list and the organization has sent out a notice to members urging them to keep their car doors locked and to tell friends and neighbours the same thing.
Bird said a friend of his on Nass Street has a neighbour with a van. The bear opened the van’s sliding door, crawled in the van and went to sleep.
“The guy got up in the morning and saw the door was open on his van,” said Bird. “He went out to check it and there was a bear, so he opened the back door and let him out.”
Another neighbour had the bear inside his car, and while there was nothing for the bear to take, it left a bunch of muddy footprints.
Bird said residents need to be responsible, not only with their cars, but in leaving their garbage out for pickup. He said people should not leave bags curbside, but instead, should leave bags in a garbage can.
“It can sit there four or five hours before the [city] comes by and it’s not just the bears getting into it,” said Bird. “There’s ravens and crows and dogs that can get into it and it makes a real mess. It makes our whole area look trashy.
“If we don’t have any food for the bears to eat, they are not going to hang around.”