There were some terrifying moments for a Coquitlam family on Saturday morning, when a black bear climbed into their van while a young child was still inside.
It happened in the Westwood Plateau area, just before 8 a.m.
The Conservation Officer Service said the family was loading groceries into the back of their van to take to a neighbour’s.
A young child was strapped in to the front seat, while an older boy was helping his mother load the vehicle. The two went inside to grab another load, which is when the unwanted visitor arrived.
“In that short time, a black bear accessed the back of the van and began eating a bag of oats that was there,” said conservation officer Eric Tyukodi.
“The older brother and the mother began screaming and shouting and throwing rocks at the vehicle, and eventually hit the panic alarm which caused the bear to wander off into a neighbour’s yard.”
PHOTOS: Bear eats oats it took from Coquitlam family’s van
Three conservation officers responded, but by the time they arrived the bear had moved on.
No one was hurt, and the vehicle was not damaged.
They searched the neighbourhood, and, despite getting calls from some other residents, couldn’t track it down. The officers set up a bear trap at the family’s home and are now monitoring the area.
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The bear, it appears, is no stranger to humans. It already had two tags in its ear, suggesting earlier encounters.
“When an animal does something like this and enters a vehicle that is occupied, it shows very high habituation and food conditioning, and essentially a lack of fear of people,” said Tyukodi.
“So it’s very, very unsettling and definitely something we’re quite concerned about.”
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‘A fed bear is a dead bear’
Tyukodi said it’s too soon to say what fate will befall the bear once it’s caught, since officers will want to review its specfic history.
But bears that have become overly habituated to humans or display potentially aggressive behaviour are often put down.
“With all of these animals it really depends on the history of what it’s just done, other than just a one-off circumstance,” he said.
“However, this is fairly serious. Obviously it’s not an animal that wold be a candidate for relocation, especially if it’s been relocated in the past.”
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Tyukodi said the case is yet another reminder for people to secure anything that could potentially attract bears — whether it’s trash, fruit trees or barbecues.
“When a bear does something like this, it didn’t just happen overnight,” he said.
“It’s been getting food somehow. It could be a house five blocks over, it could be the next road over, it could be the other side of a park.”
In Coquitlam, taking your trash out before 5:30 a.m. on pickup day can come with a $500 fine.
The city issues thousands of warnings every year, however said it has been making recent progress — with that figure dropping by half this summer.