A Nanaimo woman is lucky to still have her Christmas cookies after two bear cubs wandered onto her property and tried to take them from her outdoor freezer.
Siobhan MacPhail told the News Bulletin that she couldn’t sleep and was watching television at around 3 a.m. Tuesday when she heard noises coming from outside of her home on Centennary Drive in Chase River. When she looked outside her window, she discovered two black bear cubs.
“As soon as I opened the door one of them looked right up at me,” she said. “One of them actually came up on the deck. It stood up on its back feet and as I looked out the window it looked right at me.”
MacPhail said when she went to retrieve her cellphone, she heard her freezer – located outside on her porch – being opened.
“I thought somebody was out there and then I realized it was the bear. One of the bears opened the freezer and there are actually paw prints in the freezer,” she said.
She said the bears were able to knock two tins full of Christmas cookies out of the freezer, but didn’t eat them, as MacPhail banged on her window in an attempt to get the hungry cubs to leave.
“I think I startled them enough because I was shaking my front door and pounding on the windows because I didn’t want them to take my food,” she said.
The cubs were on the property for around 10 to 15 minutes according to MacPhail, who said it was a frightening experience.
“I was terrified,” she said. “I was shaking.”
MacPhail has since reported the encounter to provincial conservation officers and has installed a lock on her freezer and stored her garbage and compost inside a locked shed.
Stuart Bates with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, said while he hasn’t seen MacPhail’s photos, the conversation office is aware of a mother bear and two cubs that wander around the Chase River area.
“We keep trying to tell people to put their garbage away,” he said.
Vancouver Island has a population of roughly 10,000 to 15,000 black bears, according to Bates. He said people need to understand that bears are much closer to them than they might think.
“They are not far. They are never that far away, ” he said. “We get bear calls on Vancouver Island year-round.”
According to Bates, his office has received nine reports of bear sightings in the Chase River area this month, compared to four they received for the area last December.
“It’s a little busier than normal,” he said.
Although bears typically hibernate at this time of year, Bates said there is a common misconception about why they hibernate in the first place.
“People need to understand, bears don’t hibernate because of a time of year and they don’t hibernate because of a temperature, they hibernate because of a lack of food. As long as there is food, why would they hibernate?” he asked.
Bates said mother bears will typically abandon their offspring when they turn two. He said when cubs that are under the age of two get larger than normal, they can sometimes wander farther away from their mother. Bates also said younger bears, particularly males, want to eat as much as they can in the winter because when spring rolls around, females will find them more attractive.
B.C. residents are required by law to ensure their garbage, compost and other food waste is properly secured and stored. Bates said conservation officers, including himself, have gone door-to-door and held community meetings in the Chase River area informing people about their responsibilities but people aren’t getting the message.
“I’ve done two community meetings,” he said. “They will not be getting any more advice. They will be getting $230 tickets for failing to secure their attractants.”
Bates said as long as people to continue to leave food outside, the bears will return.
“Once the food is cut off, the mom and two cubs will go off and hibernate,” he said.