Bear that attacked two Squamish women won't be captured or killed

A trail is shown closed off in Squamish, B.C. According to the municipality, two surprise bear attacks involved a sow and cub in the Squamish Estuary trail network. (Submitted by the District of Squamish - image credit)
A trail is shown closed off in Squamish, B.C. According to the municipality, two surprise bear attacks involved a sow and cub in the Squamish Estuary trail network. (Submitted by the District of Squamish - image credit)

Conservation officers say they don't plan to capture a pair of bears that attacked two women in Squamish, B.C.. saying the incidents appear defensive in nature.

Conservation officers in Squamish, B.C., have temporarily closed part of a wildlife management area near the community's downtown after two surprise bear attacks were reported on Thursday morning, about an hour apart.

The separate attacks in the Squamish Estuary trail network involved a sow and a cub, according to a written statement from the District of Squamish.

Sgt. Simon Gravel of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service says an investigation suggests the bears reacted out of surprise, with the sow attacking a woman in one case and the young bear instigating the other.

Both women were pushed to the ground and scratched, and one woman was also bitten, but Gravel says the injuries are believed to be minor, and full recoveries are expected.

He says bears are stressed at this time of year as they seek food ahead of denning, which is expected in a few weeks as the weather cools.

"It's a very unfortunate situation. It is a good reminder that we live among wildlife, and we have to be aware of our surroundings,'' Gravel said.

Trail closed until further notice

The trails are in the Skwelwil'em Squamish Estuary Wildlife Management Area, just west of downtown and centred around the Squamish River estuary. It's home to more than 200 species of wintering and migrating birds, as well as other species.

The district said the trails will be closed "until further notice."

"Barricades and signage have been placed at all entrances to keep the public from entering. The public is asked to respect the closure for their own safety," it said.

Submitted by the District of Squamish
Submitted by the District of Squamish

The Conservation Officer Service recommends making noise when running or walking trails, avoiding going alone and keeping dogs on leashes.

Officers will continue regular sweeps of the area to monitor the bears, Gravel says.

The attacks follow a period of prolonged drought that affected salmon runs across British Columbia. Lack of food could increase aggressive behaviour, but  Gravel says it's difficult to make a definitive connection with many factors at play.

He also says more bears have been reported in Squamish this year, which could intensify territorial behaviour.

"I cannot tell you one specific factor that will be ultimately responsible for those attacks.''