Along the Fraser: Encounters with bears, go figure

Bear mothers are loving teachers of their young cubs

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise –Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

 

It’s spring. I’ve seen black bears in Golden Ears park. In the woods, that’s not surprising. I’ve seen bears along the dikes, too. Nothing new. But, when I came upon a jogger and a bear on Neaves Road, I was dumb-struck. They were on a collision course with no place to escape, except the deep ditches on either side of the road. I’ll say more, by and by.

Firstly, this tale. “Would you like to see the bears?” my neighbour asked.

She keeps horses near 224th Street, and was surprised – and delighted – to discover a mother bear with two cubs living in the bush not far from her stables.

“I watched the sow show the cubs how to climb a tree – what to do when there’s danger,” she said.

Bear moms are loving teachers of their young.

“Maybe, they’re still there. You can have a look.”

When we got there, my neighbor introduced Janice, who owns the land where the bear decided to hibernate – a hollow tree stump covered with ivy. At its base was an entrance hole, littered with twigs.

Camouflage? The cleverness of animals amazes me.

The den is 20 feet from Janice’s house, 10 feet from a small outbuilding, where a daughter works on homework, and which – through a window – she made a video of the cubs frolicking around in the back yard. It may go on you-tube.

At first, anyone would be surprised and anxious by the closeness of wild creatures. Bear moms are dangerous if you come between them and their cubs.

Janice says she was nervous. She called the conservation office for advice. An officer arrived, armed with “a huge gun, maybe a 30-06 rifle.”

That surprised her. She found it disturbing. Janice said he was prepared to kill the animals, something she didn’t want. After all, it had a tag in one ear. She had imagined the family would be trapped, moved to a remote location, peacefully resettled. The officer said that would take a day in travel; time and staff they didn’t have for saving bears.

It was during her meeting with conservation that Janice started to rethink her time with the mother bear and her cubs who – wisely – have moved on.

“I felt honored that they lived here,” Janice said.

Now, she worries about a coyote she sees. It looks emaciated.

The jogger? My wife and I drove down Neaves Road towards Pitt Lake to look up the Alouette River for signs of life. On a side road, along a cranberry field, Janis noticed a bear. I stopped to take his picture. He darted into a ditch, then came up ahead of us. That’s when we saw the jogger, ahead of him, waving his arms as he ran slowly towards the bear that hadn’t yet seen him.

“He’s running right into the bear,” my wife said. “Should we follow; honk the horn?”

The distance between man and beast narrowed quickly.

Bear, go. Go bear,” shouted the jogger, jumping up and down, and waving more frantically.

Finally, the animal saw him. He glanced back at us, then – discretion being the better part of valor – dove into the ditch, swam across, and scrambled into the bush.

“You all right?” my wife asked.

“I think so,” he puffed. “Heart go bump, bump.”

“Where are you going?”

He pointed.

“Visit friend, live there.”

“Would you like a ride … to be safe?”

“You think more bears will come?”

Was the bear also worried; fearful he’d be surprised by another jogger’s shouts so near the woods?

“Not likely,” I said.

But, to be sure, he didn’t startle another poor teddy, we followed him down the road a bit.

 

– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

 

 

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