Hagen Pflueger has seen hundreds of bears in the Tri-City region as a self-proclaimed wildlife photographer in the last decade.
An encounter this past week reminded him and other Port Coquitlam visitors the importance of keeping distance and remaining calm around these creatures.
The local resident used a long lens to capture several photos of a black bear around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night (July 14) strolling along the Traboulay PoCo Trail at the east end of Prairie Avenue near the Pitt River dyke.
Pflueger explained to the Tri-City News it "demanded" to be photographed, but not because it wanted a new profile pic.
"I was on my way home and [...] wanted to leave the trail to get to my car. But the bear was too close already and kind of 'forced' me to stay on the trail and walking back with him," he said.
"Since I still had my long telephoto lens on my camera, I took some pictures. The light wasn’t ideal, so I shared some of the pictures when the bear was walking in the sunlight, which makes it appear brownish. Some now believe it’s a Grizzly. Let me assure you, it was not a Grizzly bear, but a 'standard issue' Port Coquitlam happy and healthy black bear."
Pflueger's photos also show the bear walking near trail hikers, but most patrons appeared to be leaving the animal alone.
He says it looked calm and confident with no signs of aggression, believing to be fully aware humans were close by and went about its business.
"All people were super calm and respectful towards the bear. Many have taken pictures or videos with their cellphones. While the bear was calmly walking the trail, all hikers, bike riders and myself included walked backwards or turned around and gave the bear enough space to go wherever it wanted to go," Pflueger described, noting the bear's appearance lasted 10 minutes before it wondered off into a ditch.
"Everyone just went back to normal, as it is in fact a normal encounter during that time of the day. Port Coquitlam folks do know that and they live side by side with bears without making a fuss out of it."
BEAR ENCOUNTER UPDATE
WildSafeBC says 35 known bear sightings — grizzly or black bear — were reported in the Tri-Cities, including Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra, between July 10 and noon today (July 17).
Most are food-conditioned where a bear was seen rummaging through garbage or park bins, according to its Wildlife Alert Reporting Program.
The provincial organization continues to cite the following tips for residents in areas where these animals may frequent:
- Keep your garbage in or secured until the day of collection. Garbage is the number one attractant cited in reports to the provincial hotline
- Manage your fruit trees
- Don’t let windfalls accumulate, and pick fruit as it ripens
- If you don’t want the fruit, consider...
- Accessing a fruit gleaning group in your community
- Washing the blossoms off in the spring so the fruit doesn’t set
- Replacing the tree with a non-fruit bearing variety
- Don’t put out bird feeders when bears are active
- A kilo of bird seed has approximately 8,000 calories and is a great reward for a hungry bear
- Keep your compost working properly with lots of brown materials and a regular schedule of turning
- If you have livestock or backyard chickens use a properly installed and maintained electric fence to keep bears and livestock apart
The public is also being reminded to check all of your surroundings when out in the backcountry as bears are known to hang out in trees.
In the meantime, Pflueger encourages everyone to continue exploring nature, calling it a safe experience as he used to guide tourists through local trails and forested areas.
He advises being prepared for any scenario.
"Some of them very close encounters, I’m talking just a few meters apart. And not because I was trying to get close, but because the bear sometimes appears out of the ditch or high grass with no warnings. Always, the bear was as surprised and uncomfortable as me to be that close. I have never been attacked by, or even seen an aggressive bear. However, I do carry bear spray, as I do use my seatbelt when I’m driving a car."