A Rossland/Trail Wildsafe BC coordinator is asking mountain bikers and hikers to refrain from their regular trails around the Neptune Creek area for at least a month to allow enough time for a grizzly bear family to make their way to higher grounds.
Sharon Wieder said she’s had several calls from residents who’ve spotted a sow and cubs while enjoying popular mountain bike trails Larch Ridge, Monte Cola and COG or making use of Black Jack’s trail system toward the Biathlon Range.
“I would say probably over the last three years the reports of grizzlies up there have been increasing, particularly more up toward Nancy Greene Lake but the grizzlies have a huge range and if there is an increase in population and there are more females coming in then obviously they’re going to be moving around a little bit to stake out their own territory,” she said.
“They (those who’ve spotted the bears) think it’s a grizzly from the way it looks and it’s not uncommon for them to be in that area, which is why it wouldn’t surprise me,” she added. “But cinnamon coloured black bears and grizzly bears can often look really similar.”
The description of “the typical face shape to the hunch on the back” is enough confirmation for Wieder to alert those who use these systems.
Unlike the black bear, which will send its cubs up a tree and guard from the base, grizzlies tend to stand their ground in open areas which causes them to potentially act more aggressive while defending their young, she explained.
“Mountain bikers move pretty fast through the trails, they don’t tend to make a lot of noise so the bears don’t necessarily know that they’re coming and if you surprise a bear, you’re more likely to get a defensive reaction than if the bear knows you’re coming and moves out of the way and you never even know that it’s there.”
In this regard, she recommends carrying bear spray on an easy accessible holster (make sure to aim for the face of the bear to hit the mucus membrane with the hot pepper oil), gearing up your bike with noise makers and or staying off the trails all together until the snow melts higher up and the bears have a chance to find new territory. She also encourages people to leave their dogs at home.
Conservation officer Blair Thin said there have been no reports through the RAPP line and there have been no grizzlies destroyed in the Rossland/Trail area in the three years he’s worked out of the Castlegar office.
“They don’t live in our fringe areas where we’re living,” he said. “We get conflicts with grizzly bears in areas such as the flats down in the Creston area, or in areas where there is more farming/ agriculture where they may come down in the spring to mow some grass and move on — they’re usually not an issue whatsoever.”
The message is to be bear aware and “advertise your presence in bear country” so you don’t catch them by surprise, he said; both simple rules that those generally using remote areas for recreational activities generally follow.
As with all wildlife encounters, residents are encouraged to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1877-952-7277.