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Are we too complacent in the face of bears?

A bear spotted in Coquitlam. (Courtesy of Zenon Chichak)

Once an animal becomes a 'conflict bear,' it 'never works out for the bear'

Culture of taking photos has likely made many people more complacent around wildlife

LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS 1130) – There have been several high-profile bear encounters in B.C. over the last couple weeks, including one that prompted a shutdown of White Pine Beach in Belcarra.

A conservation officer says the response from most of us when we see the creatures is just wrong.

Mike Badrey with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service says the animals look cute, but not from three metres away.

“Certainly, there are cases where people do not sort of have the respect for wildlife that we would hope to see. They feel maybe a bit too comfortable with approaching them.”

In this day and age, pretty much anyone can start filming or take a photo with their phone at a moment’s notice.

“The culture of taking pictures has really led to people wanting to get closer, wanting to get that good shot. But really, it isn’t respectful of the bear,” says Badrey.

A video posted to social media last week showed a bear rummaging through people’s belongings and food at White Pine Beach.

Badrey tells us many people eschew proper safety procedure, even when they know better. He says that includes giving bears the proper distance and respect.

“It might have a lot to do with the fact that they see bears very often within and adjacent to our urban areas and they start to feel sort of like the bears do — they sort of get comfortable. Maybe a little bit too comfortable.”

He adds the more complacent we get, the more comfortable the bears become. That can lead us down the road to conflict.

“That loss of wariness leads to them approaching people and houses very closely. Then, of course, they start to find the kinds of food that we leave out, whether it’s garbage or fruit trees or pet food or compost.”

READ MORE: Coquitlam man comes face to face with black bear

Once the animal becomes a “conflict bear,” Badrey says “that never works out well for the bear.”

The bottom line: Keep away from bears.

“When you do see a bear — hopefully at a distance — you want to keep that distance, perhaps even start to back away slowly and give that bear as much room as possible.”

 – With files from Lasia Kretzel