The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has reopened the trails on Mount Fromme but they have not yet found the bear that swiped a hiker’s leg on Friday.
“The COS responded with a predator attack team to conduct the investigation, potentially looking into finding a pattern with this bear,” said officer Dean Miller. “Essentially, to date, we have not had any reports of a further sighting or conflict on the mountain.”
Miller said they decided to re-open the trails but are urging caution for anyone on the trails.
“Never hike alone. Go in large groups and make lots of noise,” he said. “Carry some bear spray.”
North Vancouver RCMP and District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services members were called to the seventh switchback of the service road after around noon Friday after a group of hikers call 911.
Fred Hawley, the man who was injured, said he and his wife encountered another woman on the trail already being charged and stalked by the bear.
“And then it charged at us and swiped my leg. Some gnarly cuts but it's OK,” he said.
With his leg bleeding, the bear continued to charge within two or three feet of them, Hawley said.
“The three of us, we all just stayed together. We tried to say ‘Whoa, bear,’ and back away. We would back away one direction down the trail and the bear would circle around to the other side,” he said.
About 30 minutes later, they encountered another woman whom the bear also charged. The four of them grouped together and the bear finally relented and ambled away.
“I was terrified,” Hawley said. “My wife was shockingly calm, calling 911.”
Crews bandaged Hawley’s leg and RCMP members called in the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and escorted everyone off the trails.
The bear is “very likely” the same one North Shore Rescue issued a warning about exactly one year earlier, said Ellie Lamb, North Shore Rescue’s bear behaviour expert and director with the North Shore Black Bear Society.
“We need to understand these animals and their motivations. They are peaceful animals. That’s them by nature,” Lamb said. “It’s kind of unfortunate that he hasn't really learned the lessons that he needs to learn, which is to give people the space that they need.”
Miller said COS will maintain a presence on Fromme and they are asking the public to alert them to any bear sightings.
“We still need to meet our obligations of public safety,” he said, adding that, since the incident on Friday, the COS has had numerous similar reports from other hikers in that area. “It's definitely an aggressive and threatening behaviour. And we know from bears that do take this approach, the behaviour doesn't go down. It typically heightens.”
Lamb said she feels the bear was mostly likely trying to send a message after too many conflicts with hikers and mountain bikers on his patch of earth.
“He was just asking for a little respect for his home,” she said. “He was trying to teach us.”
Young bears often approach people out of curiosity but learn through experience to keep back.
Lamb said she teaches students the best way to deal with a bear that is getting too close is usually to just tell them to back off, in a clear, firm voice.
“Be strong. Be in his face and let him know you're not allowed to get that close – human dominance,” she said.
If the bear doesn’t listen, and it’s safe to do so, take a step closer and give them another firm verbal warning, she said. If that doesn’t work, that’s when having bear spray becomes “extremely important,” Lamb said.
“You don't need to empty the can on him but you give him a hiss of bear spray,” she said. “If he gets any spray anywhere around him, especially his face, his nose, that will cause his senses to just shut down. … When they lose that, they panic.”
Hawley said he always brings bear spray with him for backcountry camping but doesn’t usually bother for trails closer to home. That won’t be happening again, he added.