My family has regularly tromped the trails on Burke Mountain over 25 years. With three kids romping through the woods like a herd of elephants, we never saw a bear, deer or cougar on the trail. Why?
Healthy, wild animals want nothing to do with us. To them, we signal DANGER. Given the choice to move off and away, they will.
Only when wild animals feel trapped, their young are threatened or they are sick and desperate for food will they be aggressive toward humans.
(Cougars have always been present because there are a lot of deer, their main prey. They're nocturnal and I’ve never seen one, but about 20 years ago, our neighbours awoke to a big fight between a raccoon and a cougar under their bedroom window. The yipping and howling by other animals in the vicinity, well aware of the fight, was just tremendous — right out of the Jungle Book. Turning on the porch light to see what was going on distracted the cougar just long enough for the raccoon to climb out of where it was cornered and make its getaway.)
I want people to enjoy the outdoors unafraid to foster their respect and care for nature, so I offer this advice:
If you walk the trails of Buntzen Lake, Eagle or Burke mountains, understand that you are entering rugged Canadian wilderness. At minimum, take a whistle so you can signal your location should you become lost. Take water and food, wear footwear with a good tread and carry a jacket. Take a garbage bag, preferably orange, for unexpected rain or to be seen against the greenery. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
Pay attention and talk as you walk. Wild animals have excellent hearing. Whoop occasionally to make noise if walking quietly. On Burke Mountain, a bear can be just around the corner of a building or up a fenced cement walkway — surprise, for both of you. Never approach any wild animals and leave animal babies in place as their moms will be back.
Please share this information with newcomers with whom you share a language. When trying to convey the presence of a bear to my new neighbours, I have been reduced to charades involving baring my teeth, showing my “claws” and growling. They’ve smiled and headed off in the direction I’ve tried to warn them from.
Janet Klopp, Coquitlam