Yellowknife residents warned to be on 'high alert' after several recent bear sightings

·2 min read
A black bear eating berries near Jasper, Alta., in August 2020. N.W.T.'s Department of Environment and Natural Resources department is warning people to stay off Yellowknife's trail system due to many reports recently of bear sightings.  (Therese Kehler/CBC News - image credit)
A black bear eating berries near Jasper, Alta., in August 2020. N.W.T.'s Department of Environment and Natural Resources department is warning people to stay off Yellowknife's trail system due to many reports recently of bear sightings. (Therese Kehler/CBC News - image credit)

The Northwest Territories Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) is warning people in Yellowknife to stay off the city's trail system amid numerous reports of bear sightings over the last 24 hours.

"This is an elevated level of bear activity and we need folks to be on high alert at this time," said department spokesperson Mike Westwick.

On Wednesday, ENR officers responded to a sighting in the Stanton Territorial Hospital parking lot, according to a news release from the department's spokesperson, Mike Westwick.

Westwick said an officer patrolled the area and "worked with hospital staff to limit use of the sliding doors and encourage staff and patients to limit their time outside while the officers are responding," unless people are going directly to their cars.

"We will continue to follow-up in the area as necessary — and advise folks to be vigilant in the area," Westwick said.

There have also been multiple reports of bear sightings on Yellownkife's trail network.

Those include a report from someone who said they were approached by two bears "with little fear shown."

Westwick said the department is recommending people avoid the trail areas if possible, especially after dark, given the sightings in multiple areas in the trails system. There were reports of bears around Frame Lake, Tin Can Hill, and near the airport, he said.

"Environment officers are patrolling on-foot and by quad in the trail system, and signage is up in areas where we know there have been bear sightings," said Westwick.

"Given bear activity in the area and the time of year, it is important for people to be bear aware in all areas in and around the city."

The warning comes just days after a bear reportedly broke into a condo unit in Yellowknife.

Be vigilant on the trail

If people do use the trail system, they are urged to be vigilant, and to carry bear spray or bear bangers. And, if possible, people should travel in groups, keep kids closeby, and keep their pets on a leash.

People are encouraged to be ready in case of a bear encounter. The department recommends doing the follow in that scenario:

  • Stand your ground — don't make any sudden moves, back up slowly, and avoid direct eye contact.

  • Make yourself look as big as possible — consider getting to higher ground if you can.

  • Yell as loud as you can and bang together sticks or other loud items.

  • Wave your arms slowly.

  • Leave a route for the bear to escape.

  • Get your bear spray ready and spray the bear directly in the face if it charges.

When safe, call ENR at at 867-873-7181 so officers "can respond fast."

"Every second counts, and phoning the on-call officer is the best way to get fast response," Westwick said.