News

Treed bear tranquilized after entertaining neighbourhood for seven hours

A black bear spent a good portion of Sunday staring down at passersby from a tree near Berkey’s Corner. Conservation officers were called to a home on Marsh Rd. after the bear wandered onto the property, then settled into its perch on a branch. - Connor Head
A black bear spent a good portion of Sunday staring down at passersby from a tree near Berkey’s Corner. Conservation officers were called to a home on Marsh Rd. after the bear wandered onto the property, then settled into its perch on a branch.
— image credit: Connor Head

Some Cowichan residents are wondering why conservation officers were so slow in responding to Sunday morning's call about a bear in a tree off Lake Cowichan Road.

The placid animal turned into a bit of a neighbourhood spectacle as passersby paused to gawk and take photos during a space of about seven hours before the COs arrived to take it away.

"I just wonder why it took so long" said area resident Cathy Head.

She and other locals visited a Marsh Road home where the shy black bear likely followed a trail of food before being spooked by dogs, then climbing a big fir tree in John Harry's yard.

He said a neighbour called conservation services first, then Harry's wife called  again at around 6 a.m.

"When I called (dispatch) said they'd pass the message along. I thought it should be handled quickly because there's lots of homes around."

He and his family waited for the officers as area residents came to see the panting bruin.

"It wasn't aggressive. I didn't feel threatened in any way," Head said, guessing the bear was sniffing for berries and apples along the Trans-Canada Trail before wandering into the Marsh Road neighbourhood.

"The guy who lived there was just sitting in a deck chair and looking at it," Head said of Harry.

"That was good, in case the bear came down and headed to the park," she said of a small park off Marsh, used by local kids.

In a CHEK-TV News story, Harry's neighbour Dal Sidhu calls conservation's response time "ridiculous."

The delay may rest with conservation's call centre.

Officer Mark Kissinger says in an email to the News Leader Pictorial that he received the call centre report at 12:35 p.m. He called the Harry home five minutes later to see if the bear was still there, then visited the site at 1 p.m.

It took officers four rifle darts to tranquilize the healthy 430-pound bruin, then load the 10-year-old male into a bear-trap trailer for transport to a bush area.

Bears sometimes visit the Marsh Road area, explains Kissinger, but Sunday was the first report he'd had about this bear.

Harry explained how deer often poke into his yard, but he was surprised to see the large bear.

He expects faster action from conservation officers when dealing with calls about a potentially dangerous bruin.

"Don't wait for something to happen before coming to get it, fast."

Head was glad the bear wasn't shot simply for sniffing for snacks.

"He wasn't out to hurt anyone," she said, backing a conservation officer's advice about stowing trash, and picking fruit that attracts bears to populated areas.

"Keeping garbage (secure) is a given, but you can't pick every berry and apple," she said.

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