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Dog walker 'ignored' warning not to approach black bear, says B.C. photographer

A wildlife photographer based in Whistler, B.C., is speaking out about bear safety after watching a woman with a dog approach a young black bear – even after being warned to keep away.

Natalie Wannamaker was documenting bears last Thursday when she saw the woman walking down a bike trail towards the juvenile bear.

"As she came around the corner, I notified her that there was a bear in the area," Wannamaker told CTV News. "I notified her that if she got any closer, she would be putting herself in danger. She ignored my comments and proceeded through the area regardless of the fact that she had a barking dog."

Shocked and disappointed that the woman didn’t stop or move away, Wannamaker decided to share the story to warn the public about what not to do when encountering a bear.

"It made me really sad to see that she ignored what I was saying because not only did she put herself, the dog, and the bear in danger, but anyone in the surrounding area could have been affected by the bear had it decided to become aggressive if it felt threatened," she said.

Wannamaker, who's been photographing bears for two years and has taken wildlife courses, said it's common knowledge that wildlife are in the Whistler area and people usually take proper precautions.

"Everyone else that was proceeding on the valley trail had just gone around or taken a different route, but she really forced an encounter that wasn't necessary," she said.

Fortunately, the bear didn't react aggressively.

Wannamaker said the bear was eating berries, looked at the dog curiously and proceeded along its way, but the situation could have turned dangerous.

"There are circumstances where a bear wouldn't take lightly to a dog," she said.

Officials have long warned the public not to get near any bears and keep pets under control as dogs could be perceived as a potential threat or prey.

"When I photograph bears, I actually use a telephoto lens," Wannamaker said.

"And this allows me to stay a safe distance away from the bears. So make sure you're always keeping a few metres between you and the bears you never want to force an encounter," she continued, adding that she carries bear spray with her for further protection.

Wildlife experts say when it comes to black bear encounters, the best advice is to remain calm, speak softly and slowly back away. Top Stories

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