Beware of black bear

Editor, Evan Matthews. / LAURA KEIL

by EVAN MATTHEWS, editor

I run the Cranberry Marsh loop upwards of three to four times per week.

It’s a beautiful spot, nice and close to home, and it doesn’t take very long. Plus it’s safe, as tourists and locals often walk the path.

I was running last week, and I came across a big pile of animal droppings.

I’m no outdoorsmen, but I knew immediately this was no dog. To worsen the situation, it looked pretty fresh.

I felt committed to my run by this point, and kept running. After starting on the north side of the marsh near Ash Street, by now I was a solid three kilometers into my run, on the south side of the marsh.

I nearly had a heart attack when I ran up on a raven, who waited on the path and until the last moment to fly away.

But I wasn’t out of the woods — neither figuratively nor literally — as I heard heavy breathing coming from deeper off the path and into the woods.

Now in a state of complete paranoia, I clapped my hands. I did this almost as a formality, as any time I hike on my own I’ll clap periodically just in case.

But this time, three black bear cubs grabbed hold of their respective trees, scampering up surprisingly quickly.

I was in shock, and immediately started looking around to see if I could spot the mother. But she was nowhere in sight.

My heart was pounding out of my chest, as I took off running; running as fast as I’ve ever run in my life. I continued looking in every direction to make sure I wasn’t being followed.

I’m not willing to take the chance again. Are you? — Evan Matthews, editor

I wasn’t, and I was fine. Thankfully.

But this experience was a pretty good wake up call. I’ve become comfortable living in God’s Country — but more so in bear country.

WildSafeBC estimates there are somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000 in this province, occupying almost every region from the coast through the interior.

WildSafeBC is a program designed to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

In turn, B.C. Conservation estimates receiving between 14,000 and 25,000 calls regarding black bears annually.

Even many hunters revere the Robson Valley’s backcountry for its high bear population.

While the backcountry in many respects is our back yard, it’s worth taking precautionary measures to avoid situations like the one I put myself in.

The cost of bear mace at Home Hardware is $40, so it’s worth having some. It’s also very easy to operate.

If you’re not comfortable carrying bear mace for whatever reason, think about something as simple as a bear bell.

Or, don’t hike alone. Make noise and talk to a friend while you hike or run. Being proactive could avoid putting both yourself and a bear in a very high intensity situation.

Coming nose to nose with a bear and not being prepared in any way is one of my worst fears, and it happened. Thankfully it ended well.

But I’m not willing to take the chance again. Are you?

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