A curious black bear kept West Nipissing police quite busy on June 10, taking officers on a two-plus hour tour around town before returning safely to the bush.
“He gave us a run for our money,” laughs Bev Gauthier, community safety officer with the OPP.
The bear was first reported to police around Bourgault Street. West Nipissing OPP monitored as the animal poked around in backyards between Church St. and Nipissing St., working its way south.
“The officers said the bear was not aggressive, it was just getting excited because people were chasing it around,” says Gauthier.
The brave bear eventually made it across the highway, plodding around Salter St. where Edīte Ērgle and her family had their first ursine encounter.
Ērgle’s youngest kids Estere, 7, and Eduards, 4, had just gone for a walk around the block toward First St. while Edīte, who was watering plants outside, heard from her oldest son, Emils, that there was a bear nearby, headed toward Levesque St. Realizing that her kids would also be headed in that direction, she took off down Parker St. after her children. Thankfully, when she turned the corner on First St., she found that West Nipissing OPP had offered a ride home to her kids so that they would be safe from the nearby bear inside the vehicle.
Ērgle, who moved here from Latvia, says she was thankful that police were there to help. Later, she had to have a conversation with her kids about what to do if they encounter a bear again.
“I never before realized that we’d need to teach them something like that, but we live in Canada and there is lots of wild animals,” she says. “This was the first time, but it was so, so close.”
The proper response to a bear sighting can depend on where you encounter the animal, and what kind of behaviour it’s exhibiting. But when a bear is out on the streets like this one, authorities agree the first call should be to police.
“What we like to say is not every bear sighting is an emergency situation,” says Karen Passmore, Regional Outreach Specialist for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). “Often, a bear is just passing through somebody’s backyard, or an open space area. If a bear poses an immediate threat to personal safety or if it’s exhibiting threatening or aggressive behaviour, the first call people should make is 911 or their local police. Then the police, they may request assistance from ministry staff to help deal with the situation based on what the situation is.”