A parent spotted a black bear wandering in a residential neighourhood near John Stubbs Memorial school in Colwood Thursday morning.
John Stubbs principal Garry Manhas said a parent saw the bear around 9 a.m., which was verified by military police who patrol Belmont Park. Another parent reported seeing big paw prints in the snow.
Erring on the side of caution, staff kept all students at the K to Grade 9 school indoors all day, and requested parents pick up their kids after school today.
“We kept the kids inside during recess and lunch,” Manhas said. “Their biggest frustration was not getting to play in the snow.”
Manhas called the B.C. conservation service, but officers declined to come out. “(The conservation office) advised us to ‘keep your distance,’” Manhas said. “It wasn’t very helpful.”
It’s possible the bear wandered out of the nearby Royal Roads University forest. One report suggested the bear was seen in the Fort Rodd Hill area. It wasn’t seen again over the afternoon.
Manhas has seen bears while working in Sooke, but never at John Stubbs.
“It’s unusual for a bear to be out this time of year,” Manhas said. “Obviously it was looking for food, and the last thing we wanted to do was annoy one of these creatures while its looking for food.”
A bear has reportedly been seen around Belmont Park since before Christmas, and the neighbourhood has had bear notice signs posted.
“MPs keep an eye out for (the bear) and we report it to the conservation office like any civilian would,” said Sara Helmeczi, who speaks for CFB Esquimalt.
Conservation officer Peter Pauwels said his office has received a steady number of complaints from residents and MPs in Belmont Park about a black bear breaking into garbage cans.
“The opportunity hasn’t arisen to capture that bear,” he said. Most complaints are reported at night. His office wasn’t alerted about the sighting near John Stubbs until later in the morning, he said.
“We didn’t know about the sighting until several hours later,” he said. “Certainly if it had been near the school we would have come for sure.”
Pauwels suspects the bear is living in the forest between Belmont Park and Fort Rodd Hill. It hasn’t been aggressive, he said, and it is strange for a bear not to be hibernating by now.
“If food is available they may stay up. It may have regular access to garbage at Belmont Park,” he said. “It really depends on the bear. Every year there are a few that go into a den late or not at all.”
It’s the only bear causing concern for conservation officials between the West Shore and Sooke.
The bear the second wild animal seen on the West Shore near a school in a week. Last Thursday the principal of View Royal elementary said he spotted a cougar near a playing field.