Marty Makway has lived in Warfield for almost 41 years, so she’s seen her fair share of black bears in the neighbourhood.
But on Saturday, Makway saw something she’s never seen before – a large grizzly walking the tracks near Haley Park.
It was around 5:30 p.m. when Makway was driving home from Castlegar with her grandchildren in the car.
Seeing a grizzly so close to the village was quite shocking, so Makway had her granddaughter snap a few pics as they drove past.
Those photos circulated on social media to warn others, and Makway contacted Warfield Mayor Diane Langman because the bruin was close by Webster Elementary School.
The school has since been contacted, and staff are following up with B.C. Conservation, Langman told the Trail Times on Monday.
“It was seen on Saturday and apparently in Tadanac yesterday,” Langman said. “But from our understanding, grizzlies do have a wide range, travel a long distance in a short amount of time and do a loop,” she added.
“So it could already be long gone by know, and again, there’s hasn’t been any sightings today or on Sunday in the Warfield area.”
Langman says the usual creeks and streams are dry after the long arid summer.
“Bears are having to come down lower in search of water, so they are doing what they have to do, to survive,” she said. “It didn’t look like a garbage bear, it appeared to be well fed, so my thoughts are that’s why it is coming down so low.”
No matter the reason, the message for locals is the same as with any other bear – get rid of all attractants so the grizzly moves on.
“We started getting calls on Sunday afternoon,” confirmed Conservation Officer (CO) Blair Thin. “We’ve been hearing it’s been spotted at Haley Park, Tadanac and at Gyro Park, so the bear is definitely moving around.”
Grizzlies are usually much more elusive, and people tend to think the species is more predatorial than black bears.
“They are more scared of them,” Thin continued. “But we should be treating this like any other bear, so the public has to be diligent in removing all food sources.”
In efforts to save this bear, Thin urges residents to be extra vigilent with garbage, barbeques, fruit trees, bird feeders and all other attractants they have the power to remove.
The only difference in terms of conservation response, is that grizzlies can be relocated whereas food-conditioned black bears are always killed.
“Any bear we deal with that is a direct threat to public safety is destroyed, no doubt about that,” Thin emphasized. “This bear hasn’t been displaying aggressive behaviours or putting any charges on people, so it looks like it’s still a candidate for relocation … with that being said, the public still has to be diligent in removing all food sources.”
Thin is tracking the bear, so he encourages all sightings be reported to RAPP at 1.877.952.7277.
“I want to know where this bear is,” he said, noting Greater Trail RCMP are also aware of the grizzly.
“I’m going to set a live collared trap in the area where I’ve had the last reports … and if I catch it then we can relocate it,” Thin advised. “But that option will diminish over time because the more it gets used to humans and non-natural food sources, then it won’t be a viable candidate for relocation … If I trap it at a later date, then we’d have to destroy it because public safety trumps anything we do.”
Desiree Profili, Rossland/Trail coordinator with WildsafeBC, was made aware of the grizzly on Sunday.
“The pictures that I saw were in the area of Teck’s fertilizer plant,” she said. “There are some grizzlies known to be in that range, they actually start towards Seven Summits up past the Red Mountain area.”
She says typically, bears will travel down through Oasis to the river and return to higher elevations.
“So it’s probably just wandering through and headed down to the river because it’s so dry, and then back up to its natural range.”
Profili advises people to avoid walking in the area (Thunder Road) for the next few days.
But, as with any bear sighting, walkers should carry bear spray and keep dogs leashed.
“You don’t want dogs getting in there and spooking the bear towards you,” she explained. “It’s not like a cougar, they are not going to start hunting if the dog is off its leash. But if the bear does get startled, it could very easily scare towards you instead of away from you.”
When any bear is sighted near a school, conservation should be notified.
“They are open about educating people,” Profili said. “Their goal is not to shoot the bears, it’s just to make sure everyone is safe.”