Concerns for safety of residents and bear after grizzly seen in Sayward village

Concerns for safety of residents and bear after grizzly seen in Sayward village
WatchA grizzly bear living in the nearby estuary for the last month has now been seen in the village causing concern for some residents.

People in the Sayward area are used to seeing bears but when a warning for a grizzly bear goes up, people get a little extra concerned.

“Constantly. I’m always thinking about the bear, always watching,” said resident Gloria Briggs who was out for a walk on Wednesday.

That grizzly bear has mainly been staying in the nearby estuary but more recently has been venturing into the village including Tuesday when it showed up right across the road from the village’s school.

Acting Mayor Norm Kirschner says it is a concern.

“It could be really serious, and there’s a lot of concern about that,” he said.

“The principal immediately activated a Shelter in Place and staff gathered the students and returned to the building as quickly as possible and in a calm manner. Under a Shelter in Place, students return to their classrooms, doors and windows are closed and students remain inside the building until Conservation or the RCMP notify the school that the animal is no longer in the area,” read a statement from School District 72.

The bear has also been seen swimming in a pond right in the village where children play which has many parents concerned.

“I’m concerned that he can’t play like usual, that he can’t go to the park and run around or ride his bike around the pond anymore because the bear is getting closer and closer to places where the kids play,” said Melissa Coates about her young son.

“I’m concerned because we know a lot of the kids and their parents,” said Larry Knutson who was out walking his dogs Tuesday.

But everyone is also thinking about the bear’s wellbeing.

“Absolutely we do not want to see the bear get hurt,” said Coates.

“I think mostly they’re concerned that somebody’s going to get tired of it and shoot it and we wouldn’t want to see that,” said Kirschner.

Local wildlife photographer Dene Rossouw has seen the bear numerous times and has snapped hundreds of photographs. He understands why people are concerned about safety but hopes a way can be found to safely keep the bear out of the village.

“What we need to do with this bear is have some sort of instrumentation like bear-bangers that can be used by someone like the RCMP or Conservation and when he gets too close, set it off so he knows he’s out of bounds,” said Rossouw.

The BC Conservation Officer Service says it responded to reports of the bear near the school Tuesday but did not find the bear, adding the service is monitoring the situation.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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