Cyclist recovers after boning bear as spring rampages in Ursine encounters

British Columbia cyclist Kevin Milner was turning a downhill corner on a North Vancouver trail last Monday night when he crashed into another crossing road user in front of him.

The collision, which sent Milner airborne and left him with a broken shoulder blade, concussed heart and other injuries, did not involve a car or another bicyclist. Milner’s bike had run over a black bear.

“The last thing I saw of the bear before the accident was just him running. I can see his muscles as he was running across the street, and I hit him just behind the shoulder blade and then dove over him.” him,” said Milner, whose recovery will take six weeks.

Milner’s accident on the Seymour Demonstration Forest trail was unusual, but authorities warn that with spring in full swing, bears in BC are emerging from their dens and human encounters are on the rise.

Shelley Fiorito, community coordinator for the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District in the interior of southern BC, said her phone is already full of people sharing their interactions with bears.

“We’ve had a couple of really warm spells in the last few weeks, so things are getting nice and green down in the valley,” Fiorito said.

“Wildlife is declining, especially bears as they come out of dens, look for forage and water sources.”

Fiorito said disasters like wildfires and flooding can also affect how wildlife moves in the region, leading to more potential human-bear encounters.

The district said bear-human interactions hit new highs there in 2022.

Meanwhile, BC Conservation Officers Service statistics show that 479 black bears were killed by their officers over the past year ending in April.

Fiorito said that an increase in bear sightings could be related to the increase in people working from home in the wake of the pandemic, adding to the wasted food in the trash that could attract the animals.

“Trash is a great thing, but bird feeders, particularly bird seed, are a very high-calorie meal for bears looking to replenish their body fat,” he said.

Bears can smell five times better than dogs, the district said in a news release. Her advice for avoiding attracting bears to a neighborhood includes freezing smelly food waste, removing bird feeders, and storing all trash in a safe area.

Ellie Lamb, director of community outreach for the Get Bear Smart Society, said the bears are active in May, as mother bears show their cubs around fishing spots and feeding grounds.

“That could be anywhere in its range where it lives and teaches these young bears how to survive, who to be careful of,” Lamb said.

Extra caution is needed with mother bears, Lamb said.

She said hikers who encounter bears on a forest trail should give them space by stepping off the trail and letting the bears pass, bear spray in hand, she said.

“My teaching is not to be afraid of them and to be respectful of them and give them space,” said Lamb, whose organization aims to minimize the number of bears killed as a result of interactions with humans.

Still, he said, it’s important to set limits.

“Tell them what is acceptable and what is not.”

Cyclist Milner had no such option in the split second before he collided with the bear, which he said appeared to be uninjured as it nibbled on the grass after the collision.

He attributes the painful encounter to bad luck.

“It’s a difficult situation to avoid. I mean, if you were driving your car and you said a bear or a deer jumps out on the road, (there’s only) so much you can do, right?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 21, 2023. This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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