Three bears caused a scene on Prideaux Street near Franklyn Street and the railroad tracks in Nanaimo Wednesday.
Traffic was blocked off to the 400 block of Prideaux for several hours as RCMP, conservation officers and Nanaimo Fire Rescue teamed to get the mother bear and two cubs out of a tree in a vacant lot.
Using an elevated work platform on a fire department aerial ladder truck, a conservation officer was able to get into position and fire off non-lethal tranquilizer shots and the bears eventually fell from the tree, with two landing on a bear mat. All were ear tagged by conservation.
Conservation officer Lorne Rinkel said it didn’t appear the sow and the cubs were injured by the fall and they will be relocated. While it was strange to see three bears in downtown Nanaimo, he said bears tend to head through “travel corridors” or small creeks with brush, which may have led them to the downtown area.
“Looking at [Google maps], we can see that these railroad tracks here connect to cover and that cover connects to more cover, so somehow they just followed the cover, probably in the darkness, and I believe we may have seen these three bears last week,” Rinkel said.
He also said bear sightings have been relatively low overall this season in Nanaimo but with the time of year, bears need to feed in preparation for hibernation.
“The bears get this hyper urge to start fattening up because they’ll try to den at the end of October, so with that instinct, they’ll really start moving great distances looking for food and these bears have found [it],” Rinkel said.
Shalema Gantt, who lives near the vacant lot, said she was surprised when she first saw the bears in the morning and called conservation.
“I just saw the bear climbing up and down a tree and one was kind of stuck on the fence and it seemed to be frightened of everything that was making any moves and I saw the one going up and down … it was quite amazing to see something this close into town,” Gantt said.
While bears have been known to return to areas with readily available sources of food, Rinkel said he doesn’t think the three will be making any return trips to downtown Nanaimo.
“In my opinion, it’s highly unlikely because they’ve been through a lot of trauma, a lot of stress and I’m quite sure we’ll move them quite a distance. Plus denning season is coming up here shortly in October, so I’m hoping between the weather and the distance that they won’t have a need to come back here,” Rinkel said.