June 24, 2019 8:53 pm

Warning issued after aggressive black bear lunges at picnickers on Burnaby Mountain

File - A black bear is pictured in a May 27, 2012 file photo.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
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Conservation officers and the Burnaby RCMP were called to Burnaby Mountain Monday to reports of an aggressive black bear.

Murray Smith, Conservation Officer Service (COS) inspector for the Lower Mainland, said officials were called around 1 p.m. after the bear approached a group of people having a picnic near Horizons Restaurant.

Smith said the picnickers backed off, at which point the bear began to rummage through their backpacks.

READ MORE: ‘He’s going ballistic’: Coquitlam quarry manager watches black bear trash his truck

In the process of trying to scare the bear away the bear lunged at one person and scratched at the back of their calf,” he said.

“It was superficial injuries at this point.”

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Smith said six conservation officers were on the mountain along with RCMP Monday evening and were interviewing people in the area and searching for the bear.

Officers are also working to inform the public and keep people out of the area, he said.

The Burnaby RCMP said officers were active in the areas of the Trans Canada, Ridgeview, Burnwood and Gnome’s Home trails.

READ MORE: Black bear climbs into Coquitlam family’s van while child still inside

Smith said officers were formulating a plan to capture the animal, but said it would likely be put down if found.

“It went right to their bag that they had and then started to go into the bag, and then when an attempt was made to scare the bear away the bear didn’t leave it,” he said.

“It continued to come forward and then made contact with a person. All those circumstances show me that the bear has lost its fear of people.”

While reports of bear encounters are common in wilderness adjacent communities such as the North Shore and Coquitlam, Smith said they are not uncommon in Burnaby either.

READ MORE: ‘I chased him out’: 95-year-old Vancouver Island woman finds black bear in her pantry

He said the COS gets an average of 800 calls bear calls in the Burnaby area every year.

In the Lower Mainland, Smith estimated that about 15 bears have been destroyed in 2019, usually because they have become habituated to human food.

He said the encounters are a reminder to the public to ensure they’re always handling trash properly and to make sure they keep attractants in places where they aren’t accessible to wildlife.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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