A grizzly bear sighting reported on Quadra Island over the weekend has been confirmed by local RCMP and the Conservation Officer Service.
Quadra Island residents first learned of the bear’s arrival from flyers that were posted around the community on Saturday.
“Somebody unknown to us left a flyer with a photo of it at the pub,” said Juanita Maclean of Heriot Bay Inn. “It was kind of a hazy, unclear photo, but it sure does look like a grizzly.”
Maclean said a distinct lack of “chatter” in the community led her to believe it might be a prank by somebody trying to keep visitors from Morte Lake, where the bear was allegedly seen on a well-used hiking trail.
But the sighting was reported to Quadra Island RCMP. The Conservation Officer Service was notified and has confirmed that it is a grizzly bear, RCMP Cpl. Kevin Christensen announced in a written release.
Efforts to contact the Conservation Officer Service Tuesday were unsuccessful.
There are no native populations of grizzly bears on Vancouver Island or the Discovery Islands, but the B.C. Ministry of Environment has said the string of smaller islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island from Campbell River to Port Hardy make an ideal staging area for bears — typically young males — that apparently swim across the straits.
“The islands are stepping stones, not separated by very much water,” MOE large carnivore specialist Tony Hamilton said in 2008, when as many as four different grizzlies made the trip from the mainland to Vancouver Island. “It makes sense. If we’re going to get grizzlies coming onto Vancouver Island, this is where they’d come through.”
That year, one grizzly believed to have hibernated on northwest Vancouver Island was spotted in early spring, another was seen just north of Woss, and one grizzly was shot and killed on East Cracroft Island, north of Sayward.
There were also sightings on Malcolm Island and at Cluxewe Resort, north of Port McNeill, which were believed to be the same grizzly.
“There have been incidents of individual bears swimming over in the past,” Dan Dwyer of COS said at the time. “We have a very healthy population of grizzly bears in the adjacent mainland coast area and our environmental stewardship folks say that this is an increasing population. They could conceivably do some island hopping.”
In previous incidents, a grizzly was shot and killed in the Sayward Valley in 2006, and another was shot and killed after wandering onto the Fort Rupert Indian Reserve near Port Hardy in 2001. Another grizzly spotted just north of Sayward in 2007 was left alone.
The Conservation Officer Service prefers not to intervene if the animals do not pose a threat to public safety.
Quadra Island RCMP urged residents and visitors to exercise caution and awareness of their surroundings when hiking in the back woods.