A black bear protecting her cub attacked a hiker in Squamish on Sunday, May 21, resulting in minor injuries and the closure of a public park.
The Conservation Officer Service (COS) responded to the incident in the area of Merril Park after a man and woman walking the trails were charged by the sow. The man sustained some scratches to his leg that are not considered serious.
In a Facebook post, Buzz Henczel described the attack near St. Joseph’s Church, saying the bear charged the couple as soon as they accidentally came upon her cub.
“The next thing I knew her head was right beside my waist, which was very surreal, she then threw the fastest, most powerful left hook I have ever seen raking her claws across my right calf,” wrote Henczel.
He said the couple recalled their wildlife training and made themselves appear as large as possible, waving their arms in the air and yelling like “two angry drill sergeants” to scare the sow off.
“(The bear) was genuinely surprised by our actions. She thought about her options for a moment, and as we moved towards her, she thankfully turned and ran back into the bushes.”
Sgt. Simon Gravel with the COS said the couple “did everything right” in the situation by standing their ground and making noise. He added that, in all likelihood, the sow was simply spooked by the hikers and acted defensively.
“She may have been surprised they got too close too fast and she had to react, and she reacted like a bear will often do: they charge, they swat and they disengage,” he noted.
Bear traps have been set, and the District of Squamish has closed access to Merrill Park and trails in the area until further notice. If the sow and cub are caught, Gravel said officers would assess the situation to determine the next step.
“But most likely, without a known conflict history at this point, and having this behaviour be what we describe as defensive, if we capture those bears, they would be relocated, except if we find other information, for example, if those bears have been persistent in the area accessing non-natural food, if there’s a long history of conflict, or the bear’s sick,” he noted.
In other bear news, a large male bear was killed in Whistler last Sunday after being struck by a vehicle at around midnight on Highway 99 near the Mons industrial site.
“If you hit any wildlife on the highway, it’s very important for us to know so we can identify some issues at the location and come up with some solutions,” Gravel urged the public.
The Conservation Officer Service’s RAPP line is 1-877-952-7277.