Screengrab of video by Nanaimo resident Trevor Sokoloski of a grizzly bear at the Little Bear Bay campground north of Campbell River on May 17, 2019.

VIDEO: Stay away from grizzly bear on North Island, conservation officer warns

Curious onlookers evicted from campground

Conservation authorities are warning North Island residents to steer clear of a male grizzly bear that’s been spending time around popular campgrounds north of Campbell River.

As of Friday morning, the young grizzly was last spotted at Little Bear Bay, a provincial recreation site located about 57 km northwest of Campbell River by road. The bear itself is not so little. Conservation officer James Hilgemann estimated that it weighs roughly 350-400 pounds.

He urged people to stay away, as frequent interaction with people will eventually result in conservation authorities killing the animal. Of course, it’s also risky for humans.

“I can’t stress enough, keep your distance,” he said. “Don’t get a selfy with the bear. It might be your last.”

Officials from the province closed the Little Bear Bay campsite after the grizzly was first spotted there last week, putting up warning signage and erecting barricades.

But that didn’t stop a dozen curious onlookers from gathering perhaps 100 feet away from creature on the evening of May 17. The rubberneckers were promptly evicted and given a warning.

“The barricade was down, and we evicted 12 lookie-looers that had obviously disobeyed the signage,” Hilgemann said, adding that someone had even set up a pup tent. “There will be no more warnings, it will all be violation tickets from here on in.”

Anyone caught accessing a closed site without authorization is liable to get a $115 penalty for a first offence, he said.

READ MORE: ‘She’s charging. Oh God’: Mama grizzly runs at B.C. man armed with shotgun

He described the bear as indifferent to humans, exhibiting no fear around them.

“That’s the troubling part,” he said. “People kind of drop their guard and they don’t realize the speed and strength that these bears have. and they can turn on a dime and just become agitated and attack.”

Grizzlies are rare on Vancouver Island, but they sometimes swim across narrower stretches of the Inside Passage by way of the adjacent Discovery Islands.

The grizzly has been making the rounds. After the encounter at Little Bear Bay last Saturday, it made its way to the private Rock Bay Campground a few kilometres away. The campground was busy with kids riding around on bicycles during the long weekend, Hilgemann said.

“It walked right through the middle of the campground, there were people cooking supper,” he said. “It didn’t pay any attention to that.”

The campsite posted a photo of the bear on its Facebook page on Thursday, describing it as a “long weekend visitor” that was “last seen heading south.”

After the bear’s visit to Rock Bay, Hilgemann said he believes the grizzly swam to the nearby Chatham Point Lighthouse station.

The lighthouse keeper reported that his dogs went outside on Sunday morning and then returned to the living quarters spooked, Hilgemann said.

“They came back barking and they didn’t want to go back outside, so we suspect the bear was nearby.”

The bear was seen a few hours later at Elk Bay recreation site, a few kilometres away, where it was flipping rocks and eating crabs as campers watched.

The aquaculture company Cermaq posted a photo taken by one of the employees at its Little Bear Bay hatchery, and shaky smartphone footage of the bear chewing on long grass was posted on social media by Nanaimo resident Trevor Sokoloski.

Hilgemann said the bear has a distinctive scar on its forehead. Conservation officers believe it’s not the same grizzly that was photographed last year by a hatchery employee at Little Bear Bay.

READ MORE: Grizzly bear photographed on Vancouver Island north of Campbell River

He said it’s unclear whether grizzlies are starting to colonize the Island, which is known as black bear and cougar territory. But there is a pattern of young male grizzlies appearing from the mainland.

Though reluctant to speculate about why grizzlies might be coming to the Island, he said it might be connected to the decline of salmon stocks or from increased grizzly populations resulting from a ban on the grizzly hunt.

Adult male grizzles consider younger ones a sexual threat, and sometimes kill them, perhaps causing the junior grizzlies to search for happier hunting grounds on the Island. This one is believed to have swum across from Phillips Arm. The owners of Blind Channel Resort saw it crossing the channel, Hilgemann said.

READ MORE: B.C. man drives to hospital following grizzly attack

If you do encounter a grizzly, he said, try to remain calm and back up slowly. Speak to the bear in a calm voice and avoid eye contact, which can be taken as a sign of aggression, he said.

He also noted that grizzlies are known as fast runners, strong swimmers and capable tree-climbers.

To avoid surprising bears in the wild, make noise while hiking, Hilgemann said, adding that it’s a good idea to carry bear spray – after learning how to use it correctly – along with a fixed-blade knife. And be prepared to fight back if attacked, since playing dead doesn’t always work, he said.

Anyone who sees a grizzly should also contact the BC Conservation Office using the Report all Poachers and Polluters line: 1-877-952-7277.


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Comox Strathcona Waste Management is planning webinars for the public to see the preliminary designs for the new composting facility. Photo CSWM
Preliminary designs for CSWM composting facility released

CSWM wants feedback on designs, holding two webinars next week

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Campbell River automobile dealership reports positive COVID test result

Campbell River automobile dealership Steve Marshall Ford has announced a temporary closure… Continue reading

The Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness will be working towards having people with lived experience of homelessness at the table with a new peer advisory group. Photo courtesy Zoom.
Campbell River Coalition to End Homelessness to include people with lived experience at the table

Coalition and Urban Indigenous Housing group starting peer advisory working group

Greg Janicki (left), owner of Dogwood Pet Mart rasied $410 this year for the Campbell River SPCA’s Loonies for Love fundraiser which he presented to Stephanie Arkwright, branch manager of the BCSPCA – Campbell River Community Animal Centre. Photo contributed
Pandemic doesn’t stop annual Loonies for Love SPCA fundraiser

Fundraising has been a bit challenging over the past year, but the… Continue reading

NIC Engineering student Johnny Marshall lowers a prototype oyster grow-out system into the ocean for testing in Campbell River. Photo courtesy NIC
NIC partners with Cortes shellfish company on oyster research

Study and testing hoping to mitigate the impacts of warming oceans on oyster mortality

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read