Bears, bears and more bears…

“There are grizzly bears on Rainbow Road. Very Aggressive and have been charging pick-ups. Do not stop for photos.”

  • Jun. 15, 2016 6:00 p.m.
Be bear aware in Fort St. James.

Be bear aware in Fort St. James.

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

“There are grizzly bears on Rainbow Road. Very Aggressive and have been charging pick-ups. Do not stop for photos.”

This was a recent posting from the District of Fort St. James. Not something I would have ever come across a few months ago in my hometown in southwestern Ontario.

But since arriving in British Columbia, I have become so curious about these fury fellows and often wonder about any personal sightings or confrontations people have had with bears in Fort St. James.

And apparently, yes. There has been quite a few.

“There used to be more sightings in town,” Terri Karey from Fort St. James said.

Karey had two grizzlies enter her property years ago but luckily since then, hasn’t had any more run ins with them.

Along Stones Bay Road, regular sightings still do take place.

“We woke up one morning to find one climb right up our tree,” Murray Johnson said. “They still do come around every now and again.”

Most of B.C. is considered “bear country” with bears inhabiting everything from the coastal forests through to the interior grasslands.

With various bear sightings already reported, Wildsafe BC urges that people take precautions.

In rare instances, people are injured or even killed as a result but most of these problems begin when people allow bears to access non-natural food sources.

According to Wildsafe BC, the Conservation Reporting Line regarding bear conflicts and bear sightings can range anywhere from 14,000 to 25,000 calls per year.

So yes, bears are definitely out and about Fort St. James.

Chester Hiebert from the Fort, recalls an incident years ago when his son Spencer was just 8-years-old.

“My son and I had just moved from Lethbridge, Alberta. Spencer had walked up his uncle’s driveway on Sowchea Road and came across a bear. He stopped. The two just looked at each other. Neither got excited, not the kid nor the bear. Spencer did the right thing. He didn’t run,” Hiebert said.

“It was much more common back then to see wildlife in and around town.”

And this wasn’t Spencer’s first run in with a bear.

“When he was 15-years-old, he loved fishing,” Hiebert said. “He and a friend went out fishing at Pinche Lake and agreed to catch five fish each. The fish were caught and the fire was on. All of a sudden, Spencer could feel the hair on his neck stand up. A mother bear was sitting and watching him. She waked over to him, picked the fish up off the spit and ate them all. The bear finished eating and swam away.”

“When Spencer’s friend arrived, he asked where did the fish go?”

Hiebert recollects another story of a friend, Jimmy Steves, also from the Fort, who had more than just a run in with a bear.

“He was chased up a tree by a bear,” Hiebert said.

“The bear knocked him down. Jimmy got angry, swung a log at the bear and the bear took off. He was lucky. He got away with minor injuries.”

So yes, bears do live in and around Fort St. James.

Since we do share the same landscape as bears, it’s inevitable that there are going to be times when humans will be confronted with them.

According to Wildsafe BC, as long as a bear is moving through a community and not interacting, then there will be no conflict. There are many situations when a bear will move through a community especially when trying to access natural food sources such as fish.

I’m looking forward to the summer months in Fort St. James and taking in all that nature has to offer including a climb up Mount Pope.

“But not without bear spray.”