A wildlife enthusiast was in for quite the surprise on her way home early Monday morning after spotting a black bear wandering around an outdoor shopping plaza in Sooke.
Shannon Lee Rae lives in Shirley and was heading back from the Lower Mainland when she decided to pull over and park at Evergreen Centre just past midnight.
“I was so tired and I’m a very cautious driver, so I wanted to take a quick 10-minute break,” Lee Rae told CHEK News.
That’s when she came across the unusual sight.
“I pulled in and there’s this little bear wandering through, so the adrenaline started pumping,” said Lee Rae. “I grabbed my phone, started recording and he just moseyed along and had a little window shopping experience.”
According to Lee Rae, her family hails from Alberta.
“So I’ve seen grizzlies,” she explained. “But I’ve never seen one just wandering through a public square to that extent, and so casually.”
“It was probably a yearling.”
Based out of Sooke, Wild Wise is a volunteer-run educational program designed to reduce human-wildlife conflict. It shares bear encounter tips, including what to do when encountering one in the wild, on its website.
But when it comes to spotting a bear from a safe and secure location, such as inside a vehicle or house, it urges the public to stay put.
“Scare the bear away by making noise via your voice, banging pots and pans, air horn, etc… The bear must know it is not welcome close to our homes,” according to the non-profit.
In an interview with CHEK News, WildSafeBC community coordinator Marianne Paquette echoes Wild Wise.
“Give them as much space as possible. Make sure that you’re not provoking an encounter that may surprise them in a way,” noted Paquette.
“There are different types of encounters with black bears on the island, so it’s hard to speak to all of them. It can be very specific to that encounter.”
Rewatching her own encounter video that’s since been posted to social media, Lee Rae describes the bear as “very chill.”
“I kept my distance, I’m very respectful of wildlife. So I just drove along at a distance and zoomed in. He walked around to the end of that run of stores and then turned to the right and went off into the bushes,” she said.
Lee Rae sums up the experience as “very special.”
“It was so special because, with all of the bad news about bears this year, it made everybody happy,” she added.
“Seeing the really joyous comments and people saying funny things on Facebook really made me happy. It’s always nice to have a good news story about wildlife encounters, and this was one.”