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Officials advise Nanaimo residents to give black bears space

City of Nanaimo advising residents to exercise caution on trails
A black bear taking a walk across the E&N Trail near Ware Road in Lantzville on June 3.

They may look cute but you should think twice before getting close – wild bears are active again across Vancouver Island.

On May 29, the City of Nanaimo warned through a social media post that people should exercise caution in parks and trails after a bear was spotted near the off-leash dog area at Colliery Dam Park. A week later, on June 3, another had been spotted near the SPCA on Westwood Lake Road. The only bears native to Vancouver Island are black bears, which are much more timid than the larger grizzlies.

Gabriela De Romeri, spokesperson with WildSafeBC said it isn’t uncommon for bears to be out-and-about this time of the year.

“Black bears around urban areas, usually they’re accessing some kind of attractant in the area and it’s really important that people are aware what attractants are – usually the biggest one is garbage,” De Romeri said.

Should people came across a bear, De Romeri advises people be safe and treat the bear with respect and give it space. In addition, people should ensure they aren't encouraging bears to linger about the city.

To reduce attractants, the City of Nanaimo advises that residents keep garbage carts secured ahead of collection day and reduce odours in the trash including with wrapping smelly food in newspaper. Another tip is using vinegar and baking soda to clean the cart.

De Romeri said most bear attacks are defensive in nature and over half of all of black bear attacks in North American involve a dog. For pet owners, De Romeri suggests keeping them leashed, as they can be seen as either prey or threats by the bear.

“Dogs have approached bears and cubs and basically what ends up happening is they end up chasing the bear for a little bit until the bear gets tired of that, then they turn around and chase the dog back. Usually that ends up with an injury on the bear, on the dog, and a lot of the time it brings the bear right back to the person.”

If someone does come across a black bear, they should give the bear space by backing up. They can also speak in a low deep voice, letting the bear know that a human is present.

“Bears don’t want any issue with us, so usually once we show them that we’re not a threat to them they take off in the opposite direction,” De Romeri said.

The WildSafeBC  spokesperson advises people not to run, as it may trigger an instinctual predatory chase response from the wild animal.

“Bears are much faster than humans, you’re just not going to outrun a bear,” said De Romeri.

WildSafeBC, formerly known as Bear Aware, is a program by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation dedicated to education and information to reduce conflicts between people and wild animals around B.C.

A Nanaimo-based seasonal community co-ordinator for WildSafeBC is anticipated to start mid-June, marking the second summer in a row a community co-ordinator will be stationed in the community.

Once available, the public can contact them through e-mail at

Jessica Durling

About the Author: Jessica Durling

Nanaimo News Bulletin journalist covering health, wildlife and Lantzville council.
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