Photo of bear walking with hikers sparks warnings from B.C. conservation officer

Photo of bear walking with hikers sparks warnings from B.C. conservation officer

The bear was reported and put in the B.C. Conservation Officer Service database

B.C. conservation officers are reminding people to be alert and aware of nearby wildlife after a bear took a stroll along a busy trail in Coquitlam recently.

A photo taken on Aug. 3 by an unknown source shows a medium-sized bear walking up the steps of the Coquitlam Crunch trail behind a number of apparently oblivious fitness enthusiasts – some wearing headphones.

The photo, which has been shared several times online, has garnered plenty of attention with some mystified by how comfortable the bear appeared around so many people.

B.C. Conservation Officer Nicole Caithness told Black Press Media Thursday that officers received a couple of calls about a black bear in the area and are aware of the photo, but will not be investigating because there have been no reports of concerning behaviour – such as accessing garbage – nor injuries.

“It is very common to have bears in that area and on the Crunch itself, as there are a lot of black berry bushes along that trail, which is a key food source for bears in the mid to late summer,” Caithness said.

READ MORE: Campbell River man recuperating from harrowing grizzly bear attack

There have been 9,800 reported encounters and sightings of black bears this year, according to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.

Caithness urged people to take necessary steps to ensure their safety when out along trails – even ones located within city limits.

READ MORE: Coquitlam mayor ‘heartbroken,’ but says not to ‘vilify’ COS after death of bear family

Precautions include not wearing headphones while running or hiking and making noise such as talking or whistling when moving around blind corners to not startle a bear that may be ahead.

“If a bear is encountered, people should never turn and run, and should remain calm and speak to the bear in a calm voice while backing away slowly, and give the bear the space it needs to move out of the area. Caithness said.

“One hundred metres is generally considered a safe distance to view wildlife from. People may need to re-route and be flexible in their hiking plans in order to give bears plenty of room.”

If a bear appears aggressive or threatening, call the RAPP hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

Each sighting is first weighed on a “decision matrix” that conservation officers use to determine whether the bear needs to be removed from the area or euthanized. But when such extremes are not necessary, each sighting is logged in a database that allows officers to track the various bears.

“We don’t know each bear individually, but we can start to build patterns of behavior for different animals based on their description,” Caithness said. If the bear starts to pose a risk to the public, or is showing risk of becoming habituated in the area, conservation officers will reassess the situation.

Two hundred and fifty bears have been euthanized this year.

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