Jay and Karen deGoesbriand provide a diverse range of services to their clientele at the modest Tipton Gas Bar in Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, situated approximately 92 kilometers northwest of Victoria. However, they were taken by surprise when an unexpected guest, a black bear, decided to join their list of patrons.
Surveillance footage from the establishment captured the bear’s nonchalant entry at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Monday. The bear strolled through the store, perusing racks of chocolate bars before seizing a 70-cent pack of gummy bears in its jaws and departing without making any attempt to pay for its selection.
At the time of this audacious candy heist, Jay, who was enjoying a cup of coffee behind the counter, witnessed the incident. He remarked, “Mr. Bear then ventured out to the parking lot and proceeded to consume the ill-gotten snack.”
While the bear displayed no signs of aggression, the unapologetic theft by this furry shoplifter undeniably left a memorable impression on the husband-and-wife proprietors.
The idea of watching a bear munch on gummy bears may seem ironic and amusing but, it is important to remember that bears are wild animals and can be dangerous. If you encounter a bear, it is important to stay calm and make yourself look as big as possible. Do not approach the bear or try to feed it.
In recent times, the Lake Cowichan incident represents just one facet of an escalating trend in bear encounters throughout the province of British Columbia.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) has recorded a substantial surge in bear-related complaints, with a predominant focus on black bears. In August, the COS received a staggering 5,963 reports concerning these encounters, a figure nearly double the previous high of 2,366 recorded back in 2011.
Deputy Chief for Provincial Operations, Len Butler, explained that several factors contribute to this escalation. He said “I think in a lot of the areas, drought has impacted those berry crops and natural food sources, so where do the bears go?” he said. “They unfortunately come into the urban areas, which always have a lot of non-natural attractants.”
The COS has urged residents to promptly report any bear sightings due to the potential risk they pose to public safety. The inherent danger lies in bears becoming habituated to human food and losing their fear of people. In such cases, rehabilitation or relocation efforts become ineffective, thus magnifying the risk to public safety.