Squamish man comes face to face with mother bear, cub

SQUAMISH (NEWS 1130) – A Squamish man has a word of caution for anyone headed into the woods, after he encountered a mother bear and her cub on Monday.

John French, who says he’s lucky to have gotten away unharmed, is urging others to be aware of their surroundings this cub season, with mother bears known to be very protective of their young.

French has lived his whole life in Squamish. The district councillor knows the outdoors and says he’s bear-aware.

He was running on a local trail while listening to a podcast through his earbuds when he rounded a corner and came face-to-face with the bruins.

“I saw what I thought was a large dog initially. It was not. It was a bear, and it was just as surprised as I was. It shooed a cub up a tree and then turned to me and started to charge,” he told NEWS 1130.

He says when the bear was about one or two metres away, he practiced what many have been told to do in the event of an encounter: he raised his arms, made noises, and slowly backed up.

“I started to make noise, I don’t even know what was coming out of my throat, but something. She paused, reassessed, decided I wasn’t a threat as I was backing up,” he explained.

Fortunately, the animal also backed away. But the close call has him rethinking his future plans. For one, he says he won’t be listening to anything with earbuds when he goes out on the trails, and will also be taking a bear bell with him from now on.

He hopes his tale helps others plan ahead, noting the experience was quite the reminder that it’s much safer to have his ears wide open to his surroundings, especially during cub season.

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“I was really scared. It was frightening,” French recalled. “I had the experience of being able to look it right in the eye and see surprise in the eyes of the bear. And then see that surprise turn to fear, and then see it turn into action with the bear charging at me. And when the bear charged at me, I was seriously worried for my life. If that bear had kept coming and gotten to me at 300 lbs, I estimate the animal, I would have been tumbled over and I would have been in big trouble.”

In addition to being hyper aware of your surroundings, French recommends you “occasionally yelp out” when you’re in bear territory, to make your presence known.

British Columbians who spend time outdoors are recommended to carry bear spray and know how to use it in the backcountry. You are also told not to surprise a bear, to be alert at all times, to stay together and hike or bike in groups, and to use officially marked trails.

According to WildsafeBC, running or mountain biking can increase your chances of surprising a bear, as you may be “travelling relatively quietly and at a higher rate of speed.” It says to slow down around blind corners and, as French suggested, to call out frequently to avoid any surprises.

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