The conservation officer involved the shooting of a black bear at Campbell River’s Discovery Harbour Marina on Friday felt the gathering crowds and the stress put on the bear created too great a risk to the public.
“It is important to stay well back from wildlife,” Sgt. Mike Newton said in a statement to the Mirror. “Although human nature is to get a closer look and photograph wildlife, doing so can often add to the animal’s stress level. It is possible that in this case, with the large crowds forming and watching, the bear may have felt forced to leave the breakwater in search of an escape route.”
The “medium-sized” black bear was first spotted on the marina breakwater Friday morning, looking tired, leading to speculation that it might have been swimming in Discovery Passage, perhaps even trying to cross to Quadra Island. Either that, or it came out of the Campbell River estuary, which is just north of the marina, marina harbourmaster Brad Drake said.
“Possibly why he was resting under the sign. He looked pretty tired under there. I can only assume…unless he came from the estuary way,” Drake said.
Sgt. Newton evaluated the situation and, based on the bear’s behavior and its location, he decided it would be best to keep the public well away and leave the bear on the breakwater to recover. Then as darkness fell, the bear could leave and access a nearby green space.
But sometime later, the bear got up and swam to the dock at the Discovery Harbour Marina. The bear began running up and down the quays and became increasingly agitated, Newton said.
“The bear was exhibiting extremely nervous behavior,” he said. “At this point, the bear entered an occupied business located on the dock, whose patrons were aware of the situation and had been watching the events unfold.”
The business was Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventure Tours and a security video showed the bear coming right into the company’s storefront on the marina for a brief moment.
Newton was able to coax the bear from the building and attempted to herd it toward a less populated area, away from the large crowd which had continued to gather.
“Yeah, there’s lots of people coming to look at it and stuff at the end of the dock there,” Drake said. “Lots of boats around.”
The bear was getting increasingly annoyed with Sgt. Newton following him, and became very aggressive to the Conservation Officer. In the interest of public safety, Sgt. Newton elected to put the bear down.
“The public is reminded that wildlife can be unpredictable and that such situations are high risk to the public,” Newton said.
Newton commended the Discovery Marina staff who he said were an excellent help in keeping the crowds back and helping to educate people on the dangers of human-wildlife interactions.