A series of grizzly bear sightings on Digby Island has prompted calls of caution for residents of the Dodge Cove settlement.
“Most of the time there are no grizzly bears on Digby Island, but occasionally they come over and stay for awhile and usually end up leaving again,” said Mark Boyce, a professor of Ecology at the University of Alberta and Dodge Cove resident.
It’s currently near the end of the mating season, which can lead to more desperate behaviour from male grizzly bears as they search for a breeding partner. Male grizzlies will even kill a female’s cubs at times, as the female will not mate when her cubs are with her.
Boyce says both these reasons are possibilities for the recent sightings. “My guess is that the first male that came over came looking for a female. The female with the cubs that just showed up recently could be here to avoid males.”
|Mama bear Blondie plays with her cubs at the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Cubs usually stay with their mothers for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years. During this time the mother will not mate, leading some male grizzlies to attempt killing the cubs in order to reproduce with the female. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)|
While it’s unlikely the bears will seek out humans, there are steps people can take to avoid unwanted encounters. Proper garbage disposal is key to achieving this.
“A source of food is the most important thing we can do to prevent a conflict between humans and bears,” Boyce said. “Once they get into a human source of food they’ll go looking for it.”
People can also take precautions when walking around the island. “It’s not a bad idea to have bear spray. It’s a very effective deterrence” Boyce said.
“We’re getting pretty good at cohabiting with bears. We just need to keep up the good work and avoid contact,” Boyce concluded.
Alex Kurial | Journalist
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