'I was a little bit nervous': Northern Sask. pilot warns of bear dangers after close encounter
PRINCE ALBERT -- A pilot working for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency Wildfire Management Branch captured a video of a bear coming up to his van near the Buffalo Narrows airport early Wednesday.
On his way to work, Pervez Iqbal, 77, saw something that looked like a bear in the distance on the side of the road. When he got closer, he parked to watch it graze and took some photos of it.
“Then all of a sudden the bear made eye contact with me and decided to investigate me,” said Iqbal. The bear came towards his vehicle and put its two front paws on the hood.
“He came right up, as you see in the video, and I was a little bit nervous that those big claws are going to leave some pretty nasty scratches,” said Iqbal.
He beeped the horn on his van and the bear “didn’t even blink.” He said judging from the bear's behaviour, the bear may have previously been fed by humans.
“People should be a little more alert because somebody could get hurt,” said Iqbal. He’s also seen bears go through garbage cans where he lived last summer. He wants people to start putting out their kitchen garbage only on the day of pickup.
“If I can help somebody with the release of the video, and give some advice because sometimes people are too busy living their lives and help them remember that these are wild animals,” said Pervez.
The Ministry of Environment promotes bear safety and encourages people to learn what to do if they encounter a bear in the wild.
“Be calm. Take a wide detour and back away from the animal. In most occurrences, bears have no interest in bothering a person,” said wildlife ecologist Matthew Tokaruk with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment.
He said if a bear gets close, to back away and find cover in a building or car. If a bear approaches you when you are out in nature, you can drop a hat or backpack for the bear to smell while you exit the area. He says if a bear gets physical with you, playing dead is a bad idea and you should try to get away.
“You do want to really fight and be aggressive, not play dead,” said Tokaruk.
"When bears start to associate food with humans they become habituated, a nuisance, and a public safety concern,” according to the ministry.
It recommends people minimize things that attract bears in their yards and campsites:
- Store refuse in a secure building or buy a bear-resistant container. Only put your garbage bin out on the morning of collection.
- Wash all recycling items and regularly clean garbage or recycling bins.
- Avoid leaving pet food accessible to wildlife.
- Only use bird feeders in the winter when bears are hibernating.
- Do not add fish, meat, fat, oils, unrinsed eggshells or any cooked food to compost bins.
- Properly clean and store barbecue grills after each use.
Black bears are found in many parts of the province, especially forested areas. Prime bear habitat is northern forests but their range extends southward into aspen parkland, including some islands of habitat such as Touchwood Hills in the Qu'Appelle Valley and the South Saskatchewan river valley, according to the ministry.
The only type of bear typically found in Saskatchewan is the black bear. The current provincial population estimate for black bear in Saskatchewan is 43,000 as determined from a habitat-based population model.