Please honk at the bears

Among the signs of summer on the West Coast, the regular appearance of wildlife on the roadside.

Which means time for a reminder of how to behave with wildlife on the roadside.

For starters, it’s not rude to honk at bears. It’s not interfering with their dignity, or treating them poorly. It’s not uncivilized.

Honk at a bear, save a bear’s life.

Honking at wildlife means keeping them uncomfortable around humans. The day a bear is taught they have nothing to fear from humans is the day the bear will think coming around to ask for a bite of hot dog is a good idea.

The biggest black bear I have ever seen was near Larry Lake last fall. Driving home in the evening from Port, I saw him. He took up the whole lane. I had to brake quickly to let him pass.

I admit I forgot to honk at him. I looked at him and thought, “Smart bear – staying away from people. That’s how you get to be so big.”

Remember to keep attractants behind locks. Garbage goes out right before it gets picked up, that sort of thing.

The sighting of cougars around Willowbrae and in town Ucluelet is not surprising. They are after the deer – and any other small animals they can find. Unfortunately for pet owners, the menu includes house cats and dogs that wander, said Steve Accles, BC Conservation Officer for Port Alberni, warning that cougars consider them fair game.

“Cats are called housecats for a reason,” he said, noting that housecats are often themselves predators. “Domestic cats do horrible carnage on our songbirds … any pets that are let out off leash or during night time hours could be prey to cougar or wolf,” Ackles said.

A favourite cougar lunch item is fawn – they’re around, they’re easy pickings, but they’re small and they spoil quick in the heat, which means the big cat is on the prowl again more quickly.

Cougars are shy, but they will move around at dusk and dawn. A report of a cougar chasing a deer into the woods doesn’t worry Ackles.

What he’s concerned about is when there are reports of cougars following (stalking) people unaccompanied by pets, or cougars focusing on people or hanging out where there are lots of people and no cover for camouflage.

If you encounter a cougar, keep small children close to you, but act tough, Ackles said.

“Never turn your back, never run. Act big .. throw rocks, swing a stick, have eye contact with the cougar … try to stare it down. You’re telling it ‘You’re the prey,and I’m the predator here.” He said.

“A bear, you don’t want to do that. Don’t look a bear in the eye.”

Now you know.

Jackie Carmichael is the publisher of the Westerly News. She can be reached at 250-534-9213 or jcarmichael@westerlynews.ca.