A Richmond scout group had a hands-on lesson in bear awareness in North Vancouver over the Thanksgiving weekend after a black bear tore apart their tents set up for a group camp out on Mt. Seymour. Luckily, no scouts were sleeping in the tents at the time.
Heidi Suen, a scout leader with the 3rd Richmond Sea Dragon Sea Scouts, said two leaders had their first close encounter with the bruin on Sunday evening while returning to the camp site with supplies. The leaders spotted a bear in a nearby tree and chased it into the bush by making loud noises, said Suen.
Later, the group was singing around a campfire when two scouts noticed a shadow around 20 feet away, said Suen. Scout leaders quickly shone a flashlight towards the shape and found a black bear sitting on a tree stump.
The group then retreated to the cabin at the campsite and called the conservation officer, who advised them to sleep in the cabin if they were worried.
Turns out that was a good call.
Later, when the scout leaders ventured out to inspect the area, they found all of their tents had been ripped up by the bear, said Suen.
Several backpacks had been dragged out of the tents and one sleeping bag had been chewed, she said.
Suen said the scouts group was aware there were bears in the area and had gone over what to do if anyone encountered a bear. Suen said prior to setting up the camp, leaders had ensured there was no food or toiletries that might attract bears left in the tents, and had even confiscated some items.
“I think we had done everything we could in preparation and during the camp,” she said in an email. “The bear seemed to be not afraid of people or even a big campfire.”
Christine Miller of the North Shore Black Bear Society said the bear may have just been young and curious, or may have received food in another encounter with people. She added it’s also possible a sleeping bag or backpack had retained the smell of food from another trip.
Sometimes bears are attracted to tents by toiletries like sunscreen or toothpaste that might smell like food if they aren’t locked away, she said.
“Peppermint toothpaste probably smells really good,” she said.
Conservation officers have reported a number of bear sightings across the North Shore recently as black bears seek out food to prepare for hibernation.
The scout group has since raised $1,300 through a crowdfunding drive to replace the tents it lost to the bear.