Conservation officers and the North Shore Black Bear Society are warning the public after a bear tore up the inside of a Grousewoods family’s vehicle.
The incident happened early Thursday morning, according to Conservation Officer Erich Harbich. The Blue Grouse Way homeowners heard their sedan’s alarm going off around 6 a.m. They called 911 when they realized there was a bear inside.
“The door subsequently slammed behind it and, not knowing how to get out, it caused quite the ruckus and caused significant damage inside the vehicle,” Harbich said. “A lot of panelling was removed. The airbags deployed. Stuffing of the seats, ripped out.”
Eventually the homeowner gingerly crept up and let the bear out, but Harbich estimated it had been in the car for 20 minutes to half an hour.
The bear took off to the north, back in the direction of Grouse Mountain.
Upon investigation, it turned out to be a box of granola bars that lured the bear in, Harbich said.
Food items, even sealed non-perishables, should never be left in vehicles, he added. Bears on the North Shore have been known to break into a vehicle like pic-a-nic basket because they could smell sandwiches, cookies or even spilled milk. As such, Harbich added, vehicle doors should also be locked.
“Obviously their sense of smell is keen enough to sniff that out,” he said. “They’re pretty smart. And if they can get into bear-resistant containers sometimes, they're also smart enough to get into vehicles.”
Luci Cadman, education co-ordinator for the North Shore Black Bear Society said it’s good the bear was able to flee back into the woods, but the bear is now at much higher risk of coming back and getting into conflict again.
“It can lead to them being more persistent in search of food rewards, and then property damage, of course. Bears that enter confined spaces, such as a car or an open garage, that's not tolerated, and those bears are often killed,” she said.
While vehicle break-ins are more common at campsites than in the suburbs, they do happen, Cadman said.
More bears are killed by humans in the fall than at any other time of year, so it’s critical that North Shore residents keep their yards, cars and garages free of any attractants, Cadman added.
“(Bears) could be active for about 20 hours a day as they prepare for winter dormancy. It is the most active time for them. They're focused on finding food rewards and our responsibility is to make sure that we're not leaving (any) outside our homes for them.”
Anyone who spots a bear wandering where it shouldn’t and becoming habituated to humans or attractants should report it to the Ministry of Environment’s RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277, Harbich said.
“Early intervention is key to maintaining the safety of our neighbourhoods and our bears,” he said.