B.C. Needs to Protect its Bears, Not Just its Campers

Leave Yogi alone
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor

B.C. bears shouldn’t be seen as a threat by those who camp responsibly. (RayMorris1/Flickr)

Watch any promotional video for B.C. tourism and you’re likely to see a grizzly bear with a salmon in its mouth. According to recent events, that’s no more than a marketable symbol for the province.

When it comes to keeping bears alive and healthy in B.C., it seems that citizens and authorities are more concerned with keeping their camping trips comfortable than respecting our native wildlife.

Due to recent sightings of “aggressive bears,” a string of hot springs near Pemberton have been closed. Keyhole Falls, which is about four hours away from Vancouver, has been shut off to visitors because food and garbage left around the site has led to more human-bear interactions than usual. Officials have even warned the public that people could die if they venture into the area.

Although these animals have been deemed aggressive, the reality is that they have no apparent desire to harm or eat the campers that have intruded on their territory. The dangerous behaviour that has been frightening the public is no more than bears charging humans, who then drop their food, leaving the bears to snack on s’mores and granola bars. No one has been attacked by them in the Pemberton area this year, and prior to them getting smart enough to realize they can get free and tasty food from jumpy humans, bear sightings were often considered a spectacular privilege to exploring the B.C. wilderness.

Talk has already started circulating about the possibility of being forced to kill the bears if they get too confrontational. An alternative would be shutting down the campsites permanently, allowing them to live in peace.

It should be obvious for any animal lover that losing camping privileges in the wild parts of Pemberton is worth saving multiple families of living creatures who, if left alone, won’t do any harm and will continue to reproduce in peace. Invading ecosystems that flourish without us— and suffer when we clear forests to make campgrounds—is already damaging to the environment. What right do we have to kill the creatures who have called those forests home long before we found them?

The simplest solution to bear-human confrontations is for people to start being more responsible with their belongings. The only reason why the bears have any interest in humans is for their backpacks, which are loaded with goodies. And the only reason why bears want human food is because people have been leaving their snacks and trash around for long enough that they’ve developed a taste for it.

When you go camping, put your food in sealed bags, put your bags in your backpack, and keep it zipped and in your car or tent. When trash starts piling up, do the same. The less aware the animals are of you, the more they’ll leave you alone, especially if you have nothing to offer them.

If Pemberton bears were mauling innocent campers, being scared would be reasonable, but all they’re doing is taking free food from people who don’t know how to act around wildlife. Bears might get aggressive if you’re near their cubs or territory, and justifiably so, but B.C. campers don’t have anything to worry about if they do their due diligence in being responsible in natural spaces.