There’s bears in them there ditches

Trent Ernst, Editor


As we move into July, the bears that have been so frequently seen in the ditches along the highway are moving into the higher country. For that, I am grateful.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like bears. I have no trouble with bears. When I’m out on the road on my bike, I worry far more about the vehicles coming up from behind than about any bears.

According to the CAA, around 7500 cyclists are injured every year in Canada. Of those injuries, only two were reported to be caused by wild animals, and in both cases it was a cyclist hitting a deer. Bear are not that dangerous to cyclists.


Except that, when you mix animals and vehicles you get this lovely thing called roadkill, which is a fancy name for free food, just sitting there on the side of the road.

And the funny thing about bears is, they can get kinda protective about their food.

As a general rule, I am biking about 30 or 40 km on a training ride. There are really only four ways to get that much distance in around Tumbler Ridge. I could bike the triathlon route, which involves heading out of town via Willow Drive then Mackenzie Way north. At Highway 52, instead of turning left towards Dawson, turn right towards the Co-op, and do a circle around the town, coming back in via Monkman way.

This is basically a 10 km loop, so in order to put in 40 km, I’d need to do the loop four times. And one of the reasons I love biking and despise stationary biking is the fact that I can get out and go places. Going in a circle over and over? Well, it’s not as boring as biking in one place, but it’s close.

So the other option is to bike 15 to 20 km towards either Dawson Creek, Chetwynd or Grande Prairie, and then bike back. While I’m still covering the same ground, it’s not quite as repetitive.

But it does take me farther away from town and farther along the highway. Which means there’s more chance of coming across road kill, and that means there’s more chance of coming across a bear that’s grumpy having its meal interrupted.

My favourite direction to bike in is north along highway 29 towards Chetwynd. Highway 52 towards Dawson Creek is a narrower road and doesn’t have any shoulders, and Highway 52 south towards Grande Prairie has that hill coming out of the Flatbed Valley which is extremely steep and hard to ride up and when you hit the top, you’ve only gone 10 km, so you have to go down the other side, meaning you have to come back up the hill again.

But the road to Chetwynd? The hill is long but not as steep, and the top is 15 km from town, 20 km if I’ve started by heading north on Mackenzie Way. It’s a really nice ride.

Just past the turnoff to Sanctuary Valley, the road starts to climb, crossing over the Bullmoose Creek Bridge. And as I pass this point, I can’t help but remember a story, dating back a good ten years ago now.

The Zimmer clan was out for a drive. This was back when all the kids were home, and they had to drive what amounted to a small bus to get them all around. It was purple, and known far and wide as the Zimmermobile.

As they were out for a drive, they saw a grizzly in the ditch, feeding on roadkill. So they stopped to watch. And the freaking grizzly charged their vehicle. Seriously. The van was probably 20 feet long, eight feet high, and the grizzly bear said to itself “It wants my food,” and charged.

Here I am, on two wheels, on a bike that’s about five feet long and six feet high, with a top speed of about 15 km heading uphill (and usually about half that), and this story keeps running through my mind.

But despite all the photos on Facebook and stories of bears near town, I have yet to see any while out riding. That’s always a good thing, though I still have two and a half months of practice before the big day and anything could happen between now and then.

Here’s hoping nothing does.

Editor Trent Ernst will be joining the Canadian Cancer Society’s Tour de North as Media Rider to raise awareness and funds for research into the cause of Childhood Cancer. You can support him by visiting his rider’s page at and searching for Trent Ernst.