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Black bears tussle over prime tree spot in North Vancouver (VIDEO)

Bear-on-bear interaction likely doesn't pose threat to humans, but caution required, says bruin behaviour expert
Blacks bears in tree(1)
A screengrab of a video shot in North Vancouver shows one of two black bears by a tree in the Edgemont neighbourhood on July 4, 2021.
A pair of black bears that were captured on film jawing, climbing and rubbing against a fruit tree was likely a case of the bruins jockeying for position at a favoured local hangout, according to a North Vancouver bear guide and educator.

Amanda Nieweler filmed the 18-second clip and posted it to Twitter on July 4.

In the clip, two small black bears can be seen clamouring around either a cherry or apple tree near Highland Boulevard in the Edgemont neighbourhood.

One bear is quite far up the tree, while another bruin at ground level makes a series of guttural sounds before attempting to charge up the tree, coming back down again, and then proceeding to rub its back numerous times on the base of the tree.

“It was pretty neat, actually. You usually see one bear,” said Nieweler. “It lasted about 45 minutes with the huffing and grunting and flapping jowls.”

The tree in question was likely a “messaging” tree, one used possibly by several local bears as a way to interact and share communications with one another, according to Ellie Lamb, a North Vancouver resident who has been a bear view guide and educator throughout B.C. for 27 years.

“Messaging trees – I often call them ‘rub’ trees – are trees that bears scratch, bite and rub their bodies on to put scent on the trees in order to alert other bears to their presence,” said Lamb, noting that one bear’s scent may encourage other wandering bruins to venture elsewhere. “It’s sort of like the social media of the forest. Bears are primarily the focus on those trees.”

In this case, the ground-level bear making all the racket likely got to its cherished fruit tree a little too late for the top spot, and wanted the other bear to know it, said Lamb.

“It’s a way of letting another animal know that they’ve entered into a space that the other animal is actually uncomfortable with,” she said. “He’s probably just demonstrating a little bit of dominance as well, and it’s clearly working quite well for him because the other bear snuggles up higher into the tree.”

While the scene may have appeared super-charged, most bear-on-bear interactions usually don’t pose a threat to humans, though it’s advisable to maintain a wide berth, added Lamb.

“Because they live close to us and because we sometimes come close to them … it’s good to know that if they’re actually having an interaction that’s a little more heated between each other, then be sure you’re not in the middle of that and give them lots of space to work things out,” she said.

Story continues below video.

Be bear aware

Last month, one bear was killed and conservation officers warned the public after two incidents of bruins accessing people’s homes on the North Shore.

Residential fruit trees are a very strong bear attractant and making sure bears don’t find fruit in a yard is key to keeping bears away from residential streets, according to the North Shore Black Bear Society.

In the case of an encounter between a black bear and a person, it’s important to stay calm, talk calmly to the bear while identifying yourself as a human, and slowly back away, according to the society.

If you encounter a bear eating, it’s important to let it finish, as eating is its No. 1 priority.