Grizzly bear 'terrorizing' small northern B.C. community, residents say
Fort Nelson residents have been sharing pictures and stories of grizzly bear encounters in the community since late August. (Collett Nadon, posted by Diane Ens)
Published Wednesday, September 11, 2019 4:03PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 11, 2019 4:34PM PDT
People living on the outskirts of Fort Nelson, B.C. are urging officials to do something about a wandering grizzly bear that's been "terrorizing" the community for weeks.
While residents are used to seeing black bears roaming the area, grizzlies are a different story. And the sight of the apex predator – distinguishable by its much longer claws and short, round ears – is particularly alarming for families with young children.
Tanis Mould's kids like to walk to their grandparents' place in town, but the thought of them coming face-to-face with a grizzly has made her nervous about letting them go out alone.
The family has also started closing the windows on the ground floor of their home. Though the grizzly hasn't entered their yard yet, Mould said it was recently spotted on her neighbour's property on the other side of the Alaska Highway.
"He's lived here for 50-plus years and he's never had a grizzly in the yard," Mould told CTV News. "It's just getting closer and closer to where we are."
For several weeks, residents have been sharing pictures and sightings on the Bears of Fort Nelson Facebook group. One user reported seeing the grizzly in her backyard Sunday night along Pioneer Way.
"I don't like it hanging around like this," she wrote.
Residents have also expressed frustration that the Conservation Officer Service isn't doing enough to keep the bear away from their homes. They feel the area is underserved, with just one officer assigned to a large swath of the north.
"Honestly, we live in the middle of nowhere, we're used to wild animals," Mould said. "But if you guys had a bear walking through Vancouver, the bear would be (dealt with)."
While no one has been attacked or hurt, Mould said residents hope someone will listen to their concerns before it comes to that.
"We hope somebody doesn't get eaten by a bear – that's what we hope," she added.
Conservation officer Jeff Clancy, who has been stationed in the area for a few months, told CTV News they have received 10-15 reports since late August. While he understands the community's concerns, Clancy noted that the grizzly, which he estimated to be three years old and about 300 lbs., hasn't shown any signs of aggression.
He responded to a call about the bear munching on apples in an apple tree on Monday night, and said the animal was easily spooked.
"The bear was at approximately 100 yards and it saw me and ran into the bushes immediately," Clancy said. "That tells me it still very much has a fear of humans."
The COS has also examined the grizzly's scat and determined it's only been feeding on natural food sources, as opposed to residential garbage. That's given them hope that it's not habituated to humans, though that doesn't mean the grizzly can't pose a threat.
"It's still feeding on natural vegetation, grasses and stuff. Unfortunately, these grasses are nice manicured lawns that are near houses," Clancy admitted.
The COS is keeping tabs on the bear's behaviour for now, and has encouraged area residents to report any sightings to its RAPP line. Clancy said they're hoping to drive it out of the community by making it uncomfortable – by honking horns, setting off bear bangers and otherwise letting the animal know it isn’t welcome.
In the meantime, he encouraged people to do whatever they can to avoid surprising the grizzly.
"The problem comes when you surprise any bear, especially a grizzly bear. They have that fight-or-flight mentality, and usually it's fight," Clancy said.