Bears have been wandering into the Petrie’s backyard southwest of Nakusp almost daily since the spring. Photo: Carmen Petrie

COLUMN: Bare encounter with a bear

News staffer recalls close encounter

CARMEN PETRIE

Arrow Lakes News

There’s a bear out there…

This is a common refrain in our household. Throughout the warm Kootenay summer, our furry neighbours make their presence known…or don’t. It can be quite rude and shocking if one is caught out of doors in the early hours wearing only what one was born with and attempting to get your yowling cat to come inside and shut up. Apparently I am capable of sprinting.

It seems more and more people this summer are reporting bear ativity in not just a rural setting, my home area, but also the bustling urban centre that is Nakusp. Growing up we never found it strange, or were worried, when a bear was eating the cherries, the pears, the apples…we were just ‘bear aware’. On occasion we would hear that someone had had to call the conservation officer which sometimes meant termination of the animal, I always was saddened by this. I understand the difference between a hungry rural bear and an aggressive problem bear that has become a threat, but they are both wildlife and trying to survive. It is an unfortunate situation that it has become harder for us to coexist.

As I sat down last week to write a little blurb about our almost daily visitors, I heard a car in the drive. I recognized my neighbour and I gave a jaunty wave. His reaction was to tell me I should move into the house immediately as a very large black bear, showing no fear, was headed my way. So I packed up my little office and grabbed my suntanning dog, all the while wondering if I was being excessively paranoid. I then heard a vehicle honking in the distance and back comes my neighbour, now there is a mom and cub up the tree! So I jump in the vehicle, laughing as I tell him what I’m working on, and that a picture would be great. There she was, quite small with her tiny cub, surrounded by things they could eat, how was she to know she had crossed an invisible boundary and was unwelcome on this open feeding ground mere steps from the wilder mountain country behind? I tried to get some snaps, but they were quite high up and we didn’t want to stress them out. So home I go.

Assuming there couldn’t possibly be anymore bear activity to interrupt my little article about bear activity, I settled back at my outdoor table to write. Then I hear him, crashing and grunting, horrifically assaulting my poor cherry tree 200 yards from my porch. Something to remember is that while a bear’s sense of smell is fantastic, their eyesight is quite poor. So while I looked at him clearly, he just saw a frantic blob shimmying around, making strange noises. Needless to say, I’m inside writing this, as yelling and shimmying at him wasn’t having the desired affect.

You may read this as a slightly bleeding heart for bears vibe, but I understand the fear these animals can instil as they cross into our lives. A bear that gets a taste for something can return again and again, building a comfort level with human items and lifestyle. Remember the dump bears? I’m glad this guy was eating the cherries as that seems natural, but it reminds me to take extra precautions with garbage, beverage cans, anything that smells good to a bear .. though it may not smell strongly or good to you. This particular visitor did eventually wander off towards the bush after about 20 minutes.

Never hesitate to call the conservation officer if you feel that a wild animal has become a hazard. We all need to protect our lives and loved ones, being aware that we live in an area where there is substantial wildlife activity, the onus is on us to be educated. The bears don’t seem to be getting the memo.

Carmen Petrie and her husband, Chris, live on a farm just southwest of Nakusp.

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