Close Encounters of the furry kind

Trent Ernst, Editor

Despite the sometimes nearly breathless panic on Facebook, Tumbler Ridge’s recent crop of bears have been behaving in a textbook manner, says local Wildlife Officer Brad Lacey.

Lacey says while he’s had reports of a black bear sow and her two cubs and a healthy looking Grizzly, there has been no cause for concern. “I have not had one single call about bears getting into garbage,” he says. “The bears haven’t got into anything human. Exceptional behavior right now, and stellar points for Tumbler Ridge.”

Lacey says this year’s crop of bears in town, while higher than in years past, is not unusual. “There are bears in Hazelton, Houston, Cranbrook, Kelowna… all across BC. They’re everywhere. What you have right now is a pile of berries and green belt access around town, which were designed for wind buffering and to allow wildlife to pass through.”

This includes the wooded area created by Mackenzie way and Pioneer Loop, where the Grizzly has been seen multiple times, including by Jean Able, who lives in Hartford Court across the street.

She says last Tuesday, she had a bit of a shock. She woke up early in the morning, about a quarter to four, and went to make herself coffee. It was warm in the house, so she decided to open her side window, waking the Grizzly who had decided to sleep right below.

“He jumped up, and I screamed,” says Able. “He just looked at me, so I screamed again, and he walked across the street to lie down.”

Able says she watched the bear for about 45 minutes before it wandered off into the bush. A couple ladies were out walking their dogs, so Able called them over to the other side of the street.

Darby McNeil had a close encounter with one of the bears while housesitting on the upper bench. She says she was walking by a wooded area when a bear came out of the bushes just a few meters away.

The bear did not run away, but came towards her. She was, fortunately, carrying bear spray, and used it to scare off the bear. “Then I ran back to the house as fast as I could,” she says.

But, other than startling a few residents, the bears have not actually caused any trouble, says WildSafe BC Coordinator Amanda Wamsteeker.

“Numbering bears in towns, especially in towns like Tumbler Ridge with numerous greenbelts and areas to hide, is difficult,” she says. “Presently, we have confirmed a black sow and two cubs and at least one large grizzly. Chances are high that there are more bears close to or in town, but are more wary so we do not see them.”

Wamsteeker says this year has been incredibly bountiful in native berry production. “Berry bushes tend to grow along the transition areas at tree lines; this is especially apparent along the greenbelts and newly logged areas here in town where you can find soapberries, raspberries, strawberries and several other species of fruit bearing plants bears eat. As the berry season progresses and the berries become overripe or the bears eat their fill, they will move out of town towards new food sources.”

Wamsteeker says the best actions residents can take is to ensure these bears move on and outwards by managing “our anthropogenic attractants. These include garbage, pets, barbecues, and ornamental fruit bearing plants in our yards.”

She says Garbage is by far the biggest attractant, and advises that locals keep their garbage secure and bring out only on the mornings of garbage collection day. BBQs can also be an attractant, she says, so make sure the grease trays and grills are clean. For people with fruit trees, she advises picking fruit continuously as they ripen, as these can attract bears into your yard.

Additionally, she advises keeping pets indoors and on a leash when walking, and, for people with backyard chickens (once the bylaw passes), installing electric fencing around the hen houses.

She also warns people not to stop when they see bears. “They will become less wary as humans and may become human-habituated,” she says.

“These are all currently non-conflict, non-habituated, non-food conditioned bears right now and we’re hoping it stays this way by managing our attractants,” says Wamsteeker. “They’re eating their natural foods, are still wary of humans, and haven’t caused ruckus anywhere but on Facebook.”

For any questions or concerns about wildlife in town, please direct  them to the local WildSafeBC Community Coordinator (, 250-242-8404) or utilize as a fantastic resource for all things wildlife in BC.