‘Smelt like bear’: Video of B.C. van intruder prompts reminder from conservation officers

Click to play video: '‘They’re very common’: Vancouver Island family’s close bear encounter'
‘They’re very common’: Vancouver Island family’s close bear encounter
Residents living in a small Vancouver Island village seem to be spotting more and more bears in town, with some encounters getting too close for comfort, leading to officials urging the public to report all bear activity. Kristen Robinson reports. – Aug 25, 2023

People living in British Columbia’s Gold River are accustomed to bears, but one family’s recent close encounter is prompting a reminder from the Conservation Officer Service.

On Aug. 19, Deborah Shorthouse and her daughter captured video of a large black bear who had entered their vehicle through an open window during the summer heat.

“She came running out, ‘Mom, there’s a bear there,’” recalled Shorthouse. “We came running out but we couldn’t see through the tinted windows.”

Click to play video: 'Bear put down after incident involving child in Powell River'
Bear put down after incident involving child in Powell River

The bear spent a few minutes sitting in the back seat before exiting through the driver’s side window and sauntering away.

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Shorthouse reported the bear scare to the BC Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS). The RCMP attended, but the animal was gone.

Conservation Officer Chris Hamlyn said the animal was likely trying to cool down in the hot temperatures, not realizing it would be hotter inside the vehicle.

The BCCOS has received complaints about bears in fruit trees in the Dogwood Street area of Gold River and officers canvassed the neighbourhood on August 20, advising residents to pick their fruit so bears are not attracted to the area.

Click to play video: 'Picnics paused at 3 Coquitlam parks'
Picnics paused at 3 Coquitlam parks

Bears are food-stressed at this time of year, said Hamlyn, and attractants need to be managed.

Shorthouse admitted there were some food remnants in her van, which likely lured the bear.

“It had a bag and all it had in it was peanut butter wrappers, Reese’s peanut butter cup wrappers, that was my fault.”

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The village 90 kilometres west of Campbell River is home to just under 1,300 people.

While Gold River is known for being bear territory, locals said they are noticing more of the animals this summer.

“There are probably three or four different ones here wandering around town right now,” resident Steve Davis said.

Click to play video: 'Young grizzly causing concern in small B.C. community'
Young grizzly causing concern in small B.C. community

Davis has encountered several bears in his backyard.

“One that was in our tree took a swipe at our dog and it had no fear of the dog being five feet away from it,” he said.

North Island Military Museum operator Derek McCreight said he and his wife have run into bears up to eight times in the last three weeks, including one right outside his home.

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“I looked up and there was another black bear there about 20 feet away from me so I simply turned around and walked the other way,” McCreight said.

“You do stay clear of them as much as you can because you never know when one will turn.”

Hamlyn said it’s important to report bear encounters to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) like Shorthouse did, because “it could prevent a bear from having to be killed if we get in there earlier.”

Click to play video: 'Two black bears captured on camera brawling near Powell River'
Two black bears captured on camera brawling near Powell River

While the BCCOS has no conservation officers stationed in Gold River, as the North Island Zone is based out of Black Creek, Hamlyn said they like to know of any bear activity in town and can send crews for proactive engagement with the community to remediate any problems before the situation escalates.

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People who believe reporting an interaction may lead to bears being killed might actually be doing more harm said Hamlyn, “because by the time we find out, it might be too late.”

If bears become habituated to people and food, Hamlyn said they may have to be put down.

Shorthouse said she’s learned her lesson and both the black bear, and her van — which had no damage — escaped unscathed.

“Nothing, not at all,” she said, though added it “smelt like bear for a couple of days.”

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