Thar’s a bahr

Trent Ernst, Editor

Over the weekend, I assisted Above Tumbler Ridge with videotaping the Dawson Creek Triathlon.

While in Dawson Creek, we did a bit of exploratoring. Down one lonely backroad that I shan’t tell you where it was, we came across some Saskatoon Berry bushes.

And there were so many berries on the bushes that the leaves were falling off, either from the fact that the berries were casting too much shade, or because all the energy was going into producing the prodigious amounts of berries.

We, of course, spent half an hour eating berries and made almost no dent in the amount of berries available. It was ridiculous.

This is going to be a good berry year.

Which means it’s probably going to be a good bear year, too.

Already, there have been tonnes of bear sightings.

Last week, a momma bear and her cub was seen wondering through town.

And then on the weekend a Grizzly came by.

While I keep telling people not to get too worked up about bears out in the wild, bears in town can be a bit more concerning.

Not that the bears are more likely to attack, though the proximity to so many people does increase the likelyhood of an incident.

No, the issue is that bears in town have access to human food. Human garbage. If they find out that garbage can sitting beside that house offers up a fragrant, delectable feast of all manner of items, then its game over for the bear. A fed bear, goes the old aphorism, is a dead bear.

And when bears start to loiter about town, the chances of them coming across an undefended garbage can is quite high.

It’s been a while since there’s been a grizzly around town in summer, at least to my recollection. The last few years have all been about the black bears. Typically, by this time the grizzlies have started to move into the high country where they prefer to spend the summer.

While hazing a bear can be effective to keep it out of an area, if the bear has already begun to associate a location with food, well, it doesn’t matter how much you honk your horn, the bear is going to keep coming back.

Hopefully, this one was just passing through. A bear’s home range can cover up to 4000 square km, which often overlaps other bear’s home territories. To put that in perspective, that’s larger than the area enclosed by Highway 97 between Chetwynd and Dawson, Highway 29 from Tumbler to Chetwynd and Highway 52 from Tumbler Ridge to Dawson. That’s a big area to wander, so, while it’s not common for a grizzly to pass through town, it is not unheard of.

When I first moved here from Saskatchewan with a friend, we spent most of our time wandering about town.

One day my friend decided to go for a walk. “Be careful out there,” said my sister, whom I was living with at the time. “There’s a grizzly out there.”

Darin smiled and waved and walked out the front door.

Moments later, he flew in through the kitchen door, collapsing in a heap, back against the door. “There’s a bear out there.” He said.

“That’s what I said,” said my sister.

“No, I mean, right there. In the neighbours yard.”

Like most bear encounters, it was a benign one. As long as you remember this is bear country, make lots of noise and refrain from wearing bacon flavoured deodorant, you should be fine. My order still stands. Get out there. Enjoy summer. But stay safe, too.