Grizzly bear photographed on Vancouver Island north of Campbell River

An employee of a hatchery on northern Vancouver Island snapped a photo of a grizzly bear that appeared as if it had just swum across Johnstone Strait on Sept. 5.

“I work at the Little Bear Bay hatchery. When we left work at 4:30 p.m., we came across this bear 10 minutes down Rock Bay Road,” Jordan Markell told the Mirror. “We slowed down as we approached the bear and then stopped once we realized what it was. The bear moved to the side of the road but then continued to browse along the edge, keeping an eye on us.

“Once we started rolling forward to pass the bear. It began to jaunt down the road 20 metres or so until it reached the Pye East intersection. We stopped at the intersection to observe the bear some more as it began to slowly make its way from the road, up a hill side into the bush.”

It’s not unheard of for grizzly bears to come over to Vancouver Island. In fact, it may be part of an increasing trend.

“Our bear monitoring research on the central coast has revealed that grizzlies are colonizing many inner islands which were never before occupied, and are doing so with increased frequency over the last decade. We do not know why but it has coincided with salmon declines,” Chris Darimont, science director for Raincoast Conservation and the Hakai-Raincoast professor at the University of Victoria, told Black Press in 2016.

“We do not expect colonization on Vancouver Island, because human density is too high, especially along the eastern edge of the island where bears arrive and most humans live. People tend to panic and the poor bears do not last very long before they are killed,” said Darimont.

The first grizzly/human conflict on Vancouver Island more than 20 years ago, when one tried to get into a barn where there were a number of calves. It was destroyed by the farmer.

In 2005, a grizzly in a First Nations community was destroyed after it showed desensitized behaviour. Then, in mid-May 2006, another sub-adult male grizzly was climbing over a fence into a residential back yard in Sayward where grandchildren were playing. An individual grabbed a firearm and shot the animal.

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Jordan Markell took this photo of a grizzly bear on Rock Bay Road northwest of Campbell River. Vancouver Island is traditionally known as not being grizzly bear habitat, although sightings of lone bears swimming across from the mainland occur occasionally and appear to be becoming more frequent. Photo by Jordan Markell