Wildlife expert gives tips for bear encounters on Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- Here’s a question for you, would you know what to do if you came across a bear or a cougar while on a hike?
According to the BC Conservation Officer Service, bear sightings on southern Vancouver Island have been on the rise – and just this week, there have been four cougar sightings as well.
So, once again, would you know what to do if you came across one of Vancouver Island’s biggest predators?
CTV News talked to an expert, then took their advice to Goldstream Provincial Park to test park users’ knowledge.
“I think if you’re living on Vancouver Island, you need to know about all the wildlife that we could encounter,” said Sam Webb, community coordinator for Wild Wise.
“In the spring and summer time, it’s typically baby season. That’s when most of the wild animals are most active,” she said.
That explains why there have been so many bear and cougar sightings around the Capital Region lately.
Our first question for park users was, “What would you do if you came across a bear along a trail?”
One park goer we spoke to said that she would react slowly and cautiously.
“Well first I would stop and assess whether it’s aggressive or just hanging out,” said Chelsea Josue, who was visiting Goldstream on Wednesday. “Then I’d slowly back away and I wouldn’t make eye contact.”
According to Webb, Josue’s answer is correct – with one addition.
“You need to make sure that the animal knows you’re a human,” said Webb. “What I always suggest is, make yourself look big and make a lot of noise.”
Our second question for park users was, “Should you play dead?”
“I think you’re supposed to lay down and pretend to be dead,” said park goer Haileigh Hay. “I don’t know about that though, it doesn’t really sound right.”
Webb doesn’t think so either.
“If a cougar or a bear is attacking a human, which is extremely rare, there’s a pretty good chance that that’s a predatory response,” she said.
“In that case, you want to let them know that you are not dinner. You want to fight back with everything you have.”
Should you take you’re dog on a hike? We put that question to Webb.
“What the dogs usually do is they turn around. They high tail it back to you and again that prey instinct kicks in on the bear,” said Webb. “That’s when that bear ends up coming right back to you.”
Another park goer we spoke to agreed with Webb.
“I guess it’s better to have an on-leash dog or no dog at all,” said the park user, who was visiting Goldstream with her Dachshund.
Wild Wise has a simple message for when you’re out for a hike this summer: “If you encounter wildlife, stay calm, back up, leave the area, make yourself look as big a possible,” said Webb. “Everything should be good.”