Driving home a few weeks ago, I was making my way around a long bend in the road when right there in front of me were three little bear cubs, cute as can be, sauntering along the shoulder like they owned the place.
They couldn’t have been much more than a month old. Slowing down, I looked long and hard for the mother, but she was nowhere to be seen.
Two cars of young people had already stopped to watch them.
One guy had actually gotten out of his vehicle and was taking a ‘selfie’ with the cubs in the background.
My first instinct was to try and explain to them that by stopping they were inadvertently also teaching the bears to overcome their natural fear of humans and, in all likelihood, condemning the cubs to a grim fate.
There are bears in just about every part of the province of British Columbia. Bears, especially black bears, have adapted extremely well to the encroachment of humans into their natural habitat.
Sadly, many of these bears have learned to associate people with food. This altering of bear behaviour, known as food conditioning, combined with a loss of fear of humans through repeated contact, known as habituation, more often than not results in bears having to be destroyed.
A few days after seeing the bear cubs on the side of the road, shortly after supper, we happened to look out the window to see two of them in the front yard.
When the dogs began to bark the pair quickly started to make their way up a tall fir tree where they stayed, huddled together, until dark. Again the mother was nowhere to be seen.
There were all sorts of theories in the neighbourhood as to where the mother was and/or what might have happened to her. In the end, conservation officers were called and all three of the cubs were eventually captured. As far as I know the cubs were sent to a refuge operated by the Northern Lights Wildlife Society up in Smithers where they will be safe until they can ultimately be introduced back into the wild. Those three cubs were lucky – most others are not.