Conservations officers in Port Alberni are on the hunt for a bear that allegedly attacked a man in a residential area on Tuesday.
A woman posted on a local Facebook page early on Nov. 20 that a bear had pushed her father to the ground in their yard and swatted his leg, cutting him and leaving holes in his pantleg. She said a fence had been removed between their yard and another, giving the bear access to their home near the Paramount Theatre on Argyle Street.
Conservation officer Andrew Riddell said no one had contacted the conservation office about the incident. “The only reason we know this attack occurred was from the Facebook post,” he said. He urged people to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) Line at 1-877-952-RAPP (7277) right away for any wildlife-human conflicts, such as this bear attack.
Two conservation officers and a City of Port Alberni bylaw enforcement officer were patrolling the neighbourhoods from Sixth Avenue to Ninth Avenue between Argyle Street and Dunbar Street Tuesday afternoon.
“The bears that are in town have been accessing garbage for so long…they are starting to get aggressive and bluff charge people,” Riddell said, standing in front of a house where a garbage can had been knocked over and rifled through.
“We’ve already got one trap set and perhaps we can set another one,” he said. The first trap was set last week in an alley a few blocks away from the Nov. 20 incident.
Jennifer McKean, who lives near the alley where the trap is located, said she has seen two different bears in the area “at least 10 times in the last two weeks.” She estimates one bear to be around 450 pounds, and another in the 200-pound range.
“This is the worst year I’ve ever seen,” she said. She pointed out two neighbours’ fences a bear had broken, a low roof another has climbed and several piles of bear feces along the alley.
“I watched him break down a fence. I was coming home at 3 a.m. and forgot my keys. He was in my yard and stood up and growled at me,” she said.
”I walked up the first step (of her back porch) thinking there’s not going to be a bear today. The bear came towards me and growled. It was only 10 feet in front of me, so I ended up throwing my purse at it and running up the road and spending the night at my girlfriend’s house that night.”
She said the bear comes by the area every single day—including the day the trap was set, when he sniffed around the bait at the back end of the trap before walking away.
The trap is in the same neighbourhood where another man posted on social media last week that he had a bear sleeping under his porch, but said he was told after calling a conservation office “just don’t leave your house.”
Riddell said bears will find somewhere to sleep, and they do find bears under peoples’ porches on occasion. Last year there was a home near Harbour Quay where they had to remove a bear.
“It certainly happens. At this time of year bears are going to try and find a place to take a rest.”
He said he wasn’t familiar with the specific case of the man who was told not to leave his house; he said people should still call the RAPP Line. “We’ll certainly respond.”
He also said people who have had bears sleeping under their porch should immediately close up access once the bear is gone to discourage it from returning.
Riddell said conservation officers work with the RCMP and City of Port Alberni bylaw enforcement officers to watch for signs of bear activity.
Nathan Bourelle, a bylaw enforcement officer who is new to city staff, said the bylaw office tries to minimize bear-to-human contact “as much as we can.” The city has a solid waste disposal bylaw that dictates how people should store their garbage bins through using bear-resistant garbage cans and heavy-duty clips to keep the lids secured, or storing cans securely.
“You have to put some sort of effort into preventing a bear from getting into your garbage,” he said.
“There are bears that frequent Port Alberni,” Riddell said. “We try and manage the people as well as manage the bears.”
Where garbage is available, bears will be too. “They eventually learn garbage days.”
Bears that are habituated to garbage cannot be relocated either, he said.