EDITORIAL: Be bear smart this time of year

Encounter in Metchosin reminds us all about potential for human-bear contact just before hibernation

The experience of a Metchosin woman with a hungry bear last week reminded us of the potential dangers of living in relatively close proximity to these large animals.

The initial news release we received was a lighthearted report about West Shore RCMP officers getting covered in mud helping wrangle the woman’s pigs back into their shelter, after they were frightened by a black bear.

As you may have already read in our cover story, we managed to get more details on the pig-and-bear affair, including the fact the bear was about to make a meal out of one of the young porkers.

No wonder the pigs were scared and wanted no part of being returned to a sheltered spot that the bear found its way into looking for dinner. The resident virtually came face to snout with the bear in the dark, a scenario that could well have ended far more badly. She managed to keep her wits, retreat to safety and call for help. But not everyone might be as cool in the face of danger as Nicole Rue was that night in Metchosin.

If you’d rather not test your wits against a  hungry bear – this time of year they’re fattening up for winter hibernation – there’s some things you can do to help avoid the potential for a human-bear encounter.

A good start is to pick all the fruit off your trees and off the ground. While black bears are mostly interested in grasses, roots, berries and insects, they are opportunistic, eating fish and mammals – including carrion – when available and often develop a taste for human foods and garbage if given the chance.

Which is a good reason why anyone who lives on the fringes of a populated area, say in Highlands, Metchosin or even the edges of Langford, should ensure all garbage and kitchen scraps are locked away before being hauled away or taken to the dump, or well buried for those people who do their own composting.

As conservation officer Peter Pauwels noted, there’s still two or three more weeks where people should be vigilant in terms of being bear aware. Let’s hope Rue’s story serves as a good reminder.