A Richmond, B.C., scout group had a close call with a black bear and its cub who ended up destroying their entire campsite during the Thanksgiving long weekend.
Members of the 3rd Richmond Sea Dragon Sea Scout Group were camping in Mount Seymour Provincial Park outside North Vancouver when the encounter happened on the evening of Oct. 13.
“It was kind of lucky, because we had actually been teaching the kids about bear safety the night before,” group leader Martin Yu said. “We had that on our minds when it happened.”
Yu says the bear was first spotted as he and fellow leader Erick Wei Huang Leung were walking back to the campsite with supplies. As they approached, they saw a large silhouette close to the cabin where the scouts were eating dinner.
“There was pretty clear that it was a black bear,” Yu said. The leaders also saw a cub, making them think the larger shape was their mother.
Yu and Lung held their supplies above their heads to make themselves look large, then threw the items towards the animals and bee-lined their way into the cabin.
“Lucky it was us who saw it first, because if it had been anyone else, like the kids, it probably would have ended differently,” Yu said.
After waiting for about an hour, the leaders swept through the campsite, holding pans and wooden sticks at the ready to scare the bear away again.
The entire group saw the mother bear a second time later that night as they were gathered around a large campfire outside the cabin. In that case, the bear was just feet away.
“We made some more noise and it just walked away,” Yu said. “It wasn’t scared at all, it was very calm.”
A short time after that, some of the kids heard a noise in the tent area behind the cabin. The leaders went to look, and found a disaster zone.
“The tents were completely destroyed,” he said. “There were also sleeping bags everywhere with the cotton from the sleeping bags all over. One of them was even dragged into the forest.”
The entire group ended up sleeping in the cabin that night, heading home the next morning.
Christine Miller, executive director of the North Shore Black Bear Society, says the scouts did the right thing throughout the experience.
“That bear is either young and inexperienced or has received food rewards from people before,” she said. “So they need education, and making noise and throwing things helps with that.”
Miller says she’s not surprised by news of the encounter, since the bears were likely looking for food ahead of their hibernation. But she says she’s “disappointed.”
“Because of the fear it generates in people, that bear could be killed,” she said. “We’d really like to prevent that if we can.”
The scout group has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for five new tents. Despite having to replace what the bear destroyed, Lung says the experience was a good one for the entire group to have.
“It was a good opportunity for the kids to learn about bear safety, that’s for sure,” he said. “As far as us camping, I don’t think we’ll be coming back to this site.”
—With files from Jill Bennett