WATCH: Campers watched a grizzly bear for five hours Monday as it foraged for food near their campsite north of Campbell River.
Little Bear Bay Recreation Site is on a small bay on the east side of Vancouver Island north of Campbell River. It’s a perfect spot to set up camp and watch for wildlife.
But the huge bear prints Joe Szauer noticed on the beach near his trailer Monday morning were more than he expected to see.
“We weren’t really thinking grizzly because you just don’t see grizzlies on Vancouver Island so it was a black bear first but the pad was so huge that one guy said ‘oh man that’s a trophy bear,'” said Szauer.
Peter Harrison is camping close by and says he saw the bear on a nearby road late last week.
“We saw this giant bear on the road,” said Harrison. “I thought it was the biggest black bear I’d ever seen in my life but then when it turned I could see the colouring and it looked like a grizzly.”
Jordan Markell works at a nearby land-based fish farm and saw the bear in the same area on Rock Bay Forest Service Road after he left work last Wednesday.
“We were pretty happy staying in the car especially due to the fact that most black bears, when you see them in a car, they just bolt off into the woods and this guy was a little bit more determined just to continue on with what he was doing,” said Markell.
Back at the campsite on Monday morning, the grizzly bear reappeared on the beach across the bay turning over massive rocks looking for food.
The campers watched him for about five hours.
“More exciting than nervous,” said a camper named Rob. “We had a little chunk of water between us and him, so you got time to run and hide in the camper if he came over but no, it was really exciting to watch.”
“The tide was going up and it didn’t have much beach left so it started to swim and it was swimming towards us.” added Szauer.
They yelled at the bear and made noise to intimidate it and while the grizzly didn’t seem to care, it climbed the bank close to them. It then sauntered into the woods nearby and hasn’t been seen since.
Grizzly bears aren’t normally seen on Vancouver Island but they’re good swimmers and can island hop from the mainland.
Experts say they normally come here looking for new territory but eventually return to the mainland because the habitat here isn’t suitable for them.