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UPDATE: 'Traumatized' Port Coquitlam residents mourn young bear hit by a car

Bears are frequent visitors to the north side of Port Coquitlam and one young bear was accidentally hit by a car, resulting in an outpouring of grief on social media
Bear family in Port Coquitlam
A bear family walks through a neighbourhood on the north side of Port Coquitlam, near where a bear was accidentally hit by a car on Sept. 19

A bear hit by a car in Port Coquitlam last week has drawn an outcry from witnesses to the horrific accident.

A man driving by the scene on Sept. 19 said he was devastated, believing the young bear to be one of a large bear family that frequented his north Port Coquitlam neighbourhood this summer.

“I knew it was one of the cubs that visited often,” said Brian, who asked that his last name not be used to avoid problems on social media.

Brian said he cried when he passed by the collision, which was attended by Mounties and conservation officers, as well as a crowd of onlookers.

Coquitlam RCMP have confirmed the accident took place in the 900-block of Victoria Drive in PoCo.

The young bear reportedly burst out of the woods and ran across the street; it was hit, Const. Deanna Law said, despite the driver trying to swerve to avoid the bruin.

The Tri-City News has reached out to the BC Conservation Officer Service to find out what happened to the young bear; witnesses say the bear was wheezing and appeared to succumb from its injuries.

Responding on Tuesday (Sept. 28), an officer with the service told the Tri-City News that the bear was euthanized due to the seriousness of its injuries.

"An officer did attend on the afternoon of September 19th and found the injured bear to be lying on the road immobile and was euthanized by the attending officer," CO Carter Elder wrote. "The bear was approximately 1.5 years in age and had severe injuries due to the collision." 

The RCMP's Law said the animal was still breathing when police responded at about 1:47 p.m., and conservation officers were the ones to handle the young bruin.

Meanwhile, witnesses — and the driver of the car that struck the bear — say they were “traumatized” by the event, which was shared on the Port Coquitlam Community Facebook page.

“It is sad. My husband was the one who hit the bear. He was quite traumatized by the experience. We live near the forest so we have always had a healthy respect for bears. Unfortunately this was a wrong place/wrong time situation and there wasn't anything he could have done differently,” one woman wrote.

Another PoCo resident said she, too, was upset from witnessing the accident and she was shocked to see some residents walking up to the bear “dangerously close to it to have a look.”

Car accidents involving bears are rare, but they do happen in the Tri-Cities once or twice a year.

However, in most cases, the bears are destroyed because of conflict concerns due to being lured into neighbourhoods by attractants, such food waste and bird seed.

So far this year seven bears have died in the Tri-Cities.

B.C. Ministry of Environment statistics show Coquitlam is the hot spot for complaints about bears, and five were destroyed by the Conservation Officer Service (COS) because of conflict arising from attractants.

Port Coquitlam and Port Moody saw one bear euthanized in each city.

Groups, such as the Tri-Cities Bear Aware Community Group, are reminding people to be careful with attractants.

“Our local black bears are currently in a phase called hyperphagia where they need to consume on average 20,000 calories per day in preparation for winter denning. While bears tend to be more active during dawn and dusk, they may be active up to 20 hours a day while they forage for food,” noted Carla Scott, who volunteers for the group.

Meanwhile, in Port Coquitlam, some people are still leaving their garbage unsecured.

PoCo’s Diane Kiss says that she saw people watch while a bear was tearing through someone’s garbage in the neighbourhood near Kwayhquitlum Middle School.

“I’m angry because this bear had no fear and I know it will probably end up getting destroyed,” she wrote on Facebook.

On the positive side, other PoCo residents are posting videos of bears bypassing garbage because their bins are secured by locks, or the bears are passing through yards on the way to obtain natural food.

In Coquitlam, dozens of $500 fines have been handed out to people for failing to secure attractants. 

- with a file from Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News