B.C. family sets up cameras to watch 12 bears that visit its 3-acre property

B.C. family sets up cameras to watch 12 bears that visit its 3-acre property

Peter Rowbottom and his family have been on bear watch since last year, watching grizzlies regularly roam across their three-acre property just outside of Malakwa, B.C., in the Shuswap.

They've set up three trail cameras so they can film the bears going back and forth from the river beside their house where they like to catch fish, and then across their land to a neighbouring corn field to eat.

"Our property just seemed to be the best thoroughfare for them to make that trip," said Rowbottom.

"We get everything: we get them eating. We get them playing. We have one old bear, we call him Scratchy, because he just seems to sit in front of the camera and scratches himself. Seems like he likes the light shining on him."

Last year, there were about seven bears that mostly came during the day to their property in the southern Interior, but this year they seem to be only coming at night. So far, they have counted 12 bears, including a few mothers, their babies, some two-year-old cubs and old Scratchy.

Rowbottom asked the B.C. Conservation Officer Service about the bears, but was told there isn't much they can do. 

"They can't  transport 12 bears to a different location. And if they did, they'd probably just come back anyhow," he said.

Conservation officer Jeff Hanratty said that bears are attracted to high calorie foods, such as corn, and are likely trying to bulk up before they go into hibernation. 

"Should the bears' behaviour change and they become threatening, aggressive, or lose their fear of people... that changes our role and we definitely would be involved if that was reported to us," he said.

Encounters with bears

Rowbottom and his neighbours have had a few surprise encounters with the bears over the past two years, he told CBC Daybreak South's Brady Strachan.

One time, his neighbours went to get their mail when three two-year-old cubs ran out in front of them and scared them.

Submitted by Rachel Rowbottom

Later that day, near the same mailbox, Rowbottom and his daughter were walking on the road when a mother bear and her three cubs came onto it. He sent his daughter to their neighbour's house who lives close by, but he stayed behind.

"I'm sort of used to dealing with bears because I worked in forestry my whole life. So I just stood there to see what she was going to do," said Rowbottom, who always carries bear spray with him. 

"She stood up on her hind legs and then turned around and ran off into the corn field."

Submitted by Rachel Rowbottom

The Rowbottoms have gotten used to the bears' routine and try to stay inside when they're around. If they go outside at night, they use a large spotlight to make sure there are no bears around.

"They are dangerous. But you know, we know their routine and they're really not interested in us. They're interested in getting to that corn field and filling up corn," he said.

Rowbottom has tried to grow corn on his own property, but the bears always eat it, so he built a large fence around the corn to keep them away.

"We try everything to keep them from staying on our property and they're just passing through," he added.

Hanratty added that taking precautions, such as using electric fencing around food sources, will help keep the bears away. 

Videos

The videos Rowbottom and his family have been sharing of the bears over the past few months have been a hit online.

"Local people are really excited about it. We've got probably 100 views just from a local site here," he said.

"Some people have complained that we're trying to attract them to our property, but that's not the case at all. This happens to be the place they travel through to get to where they're going."