Local business owners Jay and Karen deGoesbriand of the Tipton Gas Bar in Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, had a surprising start to their week when an unexpected guest strolled into their store. Situated about 92 kilometres northwest of Victoria, the store has seen a diverse range of customers, but none quite as unique as a black bear looking for a sweet treat.
Unusual Customer Behaviour
Security footage from Monday morning shows the bear nonchalantly entering the store at around 6:30 a.m. Bypassing several other confectionary options, the furry shoplifter made its selection: a 70-cent pack of gummy bears. With its chosen snack securely in its jaws, the bear made a swift exit, neglecting to pay for its purchase.
Jay deGoesbriand, who was present during the incident, recounted, “Mr. Bear then went out in the parking lot and ate it.” He was behind the counter sipping his coffee when the early morning candy heist took place.
The husband-and-wife team were both taken aback and amused by the bear’s non-aggressive behavior. Karen deGoesbriand shared her perspective, saying, “I thought it was so cool. Obviously [the bear] has a sweet tooth.”
Growing Concerns in B.C.
The peculiar episode at Lake Cowichan isn’t an isolated one. There has been a surge in bear sightings and encounters throughout B.C. this year. According to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS), reports regarding black bears in particular have seen a significant uptick.
August’s numbers were especially alarming. The COS logged 5,963 calls about black bears — an astounding increase from the previous high of 2,366 calls back in 2011.
Causes for Increased Bear Activities
Len Butler, deputy chief for provincial operations, spoke to CHEK News about the possible reasons behind the surge in bear encounters. “I think a lot of the areas, drought has impacted those berry crops and natural food sources, so where do the bears go?” Butler posited. “They unfortunately come into the urban areas, which always have a lot of non-natural attractants.”
Public Safety Alert
In light of the increasing bear-human interactions, the COS has issued a warning to the public. In a prior interview with CBC News, the organization emphasized the importance of reporting any bear sightings. Bears that grow accustomed to human food and become fearless of human presence can pose a significant threat. The COS cautions that once bears display such behavior, rehabilitation or relocation isn’t feasible, stating, “making the risk to public safety simply too great.”
Residents are urged to remain vigilant and to keep all food items securely stored to avoid attracting bears to urban areas.