Just the Bear Facts
“Just the facts, Ma’am.”
— Sgt. Joe Friday, Dragnet, 1949–1959
It all started off as a normal day. At the end of school, we came out to meet our great aunt who was anxious to tell us “the news.” There was a surprise visitor on the farm, a real live BEAR. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s back up a bit. …
It was another beautiful day on Thistledown Farm. When Aunt Jackie let the dogs out, they immediately bolted towards the giant cedar, a mere stone’s throw away from the house. Whistling and calling proved fruitless as the dogs carried on their barkfest. Was it a squirrel? A rabbit?
Walking towards the commotion, Aunt Jackie’s eye caught a glimpse of something black hugging the tree. “Why does Beauty, our black collie, look so big?” wondered Aunt Jackie. It turns out that the black body belonged to a young collared bear, who had wandered onto the farm in search of our scrumptious apples. With six barking dogs at his paws, the poor wee bear scrambled 50 feet up the tree in five seconds flat.
Aunt Jackie herded the dogs inside and quickly phoned the provincial conservation office for advice. The officer suggested keeping the dogs inside to encourage the little bear to climb down and move on. Shortly thereafter, Aunt Jackie picked us up from school and brought us home in time for a visit from Sergeant Stuart Bates.
It turns out that the starving orphan cub was rescued in Port Alberni and transported to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington. This July, at the ripe old age of 18 months, the little bear was released in hopes that he would return to his home. Instead, he heard that Ladysmith was the place to be; you know, with all those lights and famous actors! Albert travelled over 60 kilometres, as the crow flies, to be there.
Conservation Officer Stuart Bates told us that they typically don’t name rescued animals, but we thought he deserved a name. Since he was from Port Alberni, we thought Albert was the perfect choice.
Although Albert was quite small and cute, Sergeant Bates reminded us of a few good “rules of engagement” when you meet a bear, no matter the size:
DO NOT scream
DO NOT turn and run away
DO NOT make eye contact
DO make yourself look big
DO the moonwalk — walk backwards slooooooowly
DO speak to the bear calmly — “I see you there, bear.”
Armed with this new knowledge, we thanked Conservation Officer Bates for visiting us and sharing his bear wisdom. He also provided us with some additional tidbits of information to help us stay aware and stay safe.
The Bear Facts
The estimated black bear population on Vancouver Island ranges from 7,000 to as many as 12,000.
Black bears have been on the Island for over 10,000 years.
Encounters with humans may be common, but there have only been two attacks reported in the past 50 years on the Island.
The most common bear attractant is garbage. Others include ripe fruit, compost, livestock, and birdfeeders.
Black bears come in all different colours, not just black — except on Vancouver Island where they are almost all black.
Little bears climb over fences and big bears push through them, unless they are electrified.
Mild weather on the Island makes it possible for bears to access food throughout the year, which means they don’t always hibernate.
Dogs are man’s best friend when it comes to keeping bears at bay.
Since Albert’s encounter with the dogs, we have not seen hide nor hair of him. But Sergeant Bates says that he remains in the Ladysmith–Yellowpoint area and even went up to the Bungee Zone!
Meadow and Quinton Moran, Dad Chris, Mom Jackie and Great Aunt Jackie have been busy down on the farm collecting windfalls and pressing them into juice, a small step towards reducing our environmental footprint and helping little bears, like Albert, stay wild.