Bear killed by environment officer after breaking into Yellowknife condo unit

·3 min read
Tracey MacLean, left, and Emma Smith were going to bed when they heard a racket outside their bedroom. When they went to investigate the noise, they found a bear making its way through the window and into their home office. (Hilary Bird/CBC - image credit)
Tracey MacLean, left, and Emma Smith were going to bed when they heard a racket outside their bedroom. When they went to investigate the noise, they found a bear making its way through the window and into their home office. (Hilary Bird/CBC - image credit)

A Yellowknife couple were hardly in bed when they woke up to a crash coming from outside their bedroom in the early hours of Monday morning.

Tracey MacLean said she woke up to a "thrashing" sound. Her wife, Emma Smith had gotten out of bed moments earlier after hearing a loud noise.

"I heard a banging sound," Smith said. "I thought maybe there were people outside or the neighbours were doing something, and I was kind of annoyed."

Smith realized the noise was coming from just outside their window, so she left her room, though without her glasses.

MacLean said she soon followed Smith into their home office.

"By the time I get out there," MacLean said, "[Smith] had flipped the light on in the office, and she was like, 'Is that an animal?' and I was locked eyes with this bear."

MacLean said it had come through the window.

Smith said she yelled at the bear in her "teacher voice," and they shut the door of their office. MacLean said they went outside, cautiously, in case the bear tried to get through their office door.

Instead, she said, she saw the bear leave their window and head to a neighbour's home, and she called emergency services.

Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, confirmed an officer from the department responded to a call about a bear attempting to get inside units of Forrest Manor in Yellowknife at around 1:30 a.m. on Monday.

The bear, which he described as a large male black bear, was put down on Monday morning by the officer. He said it was killed "as a result of the clear, immediate risk to public safety."

Westwick said when the officer arrived to investigate, the bear was spotted eating some garbage near residents in a vehicle.

Hilary Bird/CBC
Hilary Bird/CBC

"Our officer responded. The bear showed no fear to humans," Westwick said. He confirmed the bear had ripped a "huge hole" in a window and gotten inside one of the units while residents were home. The bear also tried to get into two other units.

He said the officer stayed on the scene and let residents nearby know about the incident afterward, as the gunshots "were very loud."

"This was an extremely stressful situation for all involved, and we want to offer our best to residents affected — and thank them for their co-operation as we responded," Westwick said.

"At this time of year, bears can get bolder because they're trying to get fat for the long winter. That means it's on all of us to be even more bear aware than usual."

He said putting an end to human-bear interactions starts with people being bear-aware even at home, or while at camp, or at a cabin. That means, he added, keeping bear attractants inside or in bear-proof containers.

A 'safety wake up'

The couple said there wasn't any food in the office, just a few plants.

They think it's possible the bear went back out the window after they found it and yelled at it.

"I deal with grade eights so I can handle a bear," Smith said jokingly.

On a serious note, both say it was a terrifying experience.

"My heart was in my throat, I've never been that scared," MacLean said.

"I'm just thinking about all the what-ifs: what if we didn't wake up? What if we were sleeping … [or] we had been a little slower?"

Smith added "it's kind of like a safety wake up."