Just as I started scrolling to research recent wildlife sightings Monday night, a friend says she is being visited by a momma bear and two cubs.
Mom knocked the lid off her compost bin while searching for food. In answer to a query on the NWT species Facebook page about a bear sighting near Prosperous Lake, a person commented about a couple bears he had seen recently near Cassidy Point and included a picture of one across the bay.
At the entrance to Prosperous, there is a sign posted, “Wildlife in area,” and I survey the grounds to make sure we’re all clear. A bear trap had been placed less than a kilometre away. Because I‘m camping with friends near Prelude, I ask about the status of this bear. We are tenting and I want to make sure we are OK. I don’t want to call wildlife officials on this Saturday long weekend as I’m sure they are run off their feet.
The gatekeeper at Prelude suggests the trap was just moved to another location but the bear, apparently wounded, is still loose. That morning in the campground, a couple of bears wandered in but were chased off by wildlife officers. And then there are pictures on Facebook of the two beauties at the dump, so close to town but keeping a fairly low profile. But there have been bear sightings in Yellowknife. The Tin Can Hill Facebook page was buzzing with maps showing a bear sighting there and advising caution to off-leash dog walkers. My dogs are rarely off leash now, except in protected areas. A bear encounter is one of the last things we need.
We are experiencing many wildlife visitors this year, probably in search of food but also trying to escape the fires and smoke. They are just like us.
In this, our second summer of fire in the last several years and during our time of climate change extremes, we are witnessing the start of things to come. More wildlife encounters are certain with them seeking refuge too. They are evacuees, just like some of us. It will not only be contingent on our own species to make sure we are not responsible for starting a fire, it will also be important to ensure we are not enticing wildlife. This includes those feeding the young foxes at a popular turnoff near town. Now they sit and wait for food… an invitation to disaster.
Let’s not forget the giant cross in the woods by Prelude honouring the young man who fell victim to a bear encounter there not long ago. It happens. This their natural habitat with many food sources now being destroyed. In almost any meeting where there is confrontation, the wildlife pays — usually with their lives. This means that we pick up our garbage and dispose of it appropriately, no matter how seemingly unimportant we think it is.
A friend tells me of witnessing a bear shred a tent looking for the toothpaste inside. Another relates witnessing one of these big guys rip off the trailer door and the fridge looking for food there too. All food products and anything with a strong odour goes high in a tree or in the car. Remnants from the fish we clean is washed away and the barbecue with all its curious and enticing smells is cleaned and locked up for the night. Everyone is put at risk when one camper doesn’t follow the rules.
No doubt the bears are hungry and anxious. As we are having difficulty breathing the smoke-filled air, so are they. We know it’s climate change, they just know it’s fire.
Their lives are difficult. They cannot find refuge from the smoke and see fire flickering in the sky. This can only agitate them, which will escalate their behavior, especially if they have young ones to protect.
Climate change will continue to affect us in so many ways until we change our ways. Taking precautions to not start fires and not entice worried wildlife will be the required behavior going forward. Let’s give them a fighting chance. After all, they belong here too.