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‘Bear jams’ becoming increasingly common and more than some B.C. travellers can bear

TranBC shares strategies to avoid an unsafe ‘bear jam’ while travelling
A bear nearing recycling and garbage bins. (Submitted photo)

TranBC wants B.C. residents to be more bear aware to increase public safety.

The Ministry of Transportation has offered some tips for anyone encountering a ‘bear jam’ during their travels throughout the province.

A ‘bear jam’, according to a TranBC news release is a situation where travellers become unsafe or unable to continue travelling to their destination due to bear-related situations. Such jams have negative impacts on people and bruins alike, stated the release.

Situations can be bad for people when stopped vehicles are fully or partially blocking travel lanes, along with people crossing the road and milling around the roadside. These situations pose serious hazards, especially on sections of the highway with narrow shoulders and limited sightlines. Bear jams make it difficult for drivers to safely pass through the area without conflicting with opposing traffic or people wandering around the road.

Regarding bear jam culprits, people creeping too close to bears in pursuit of a photograph can be hazardous to health and safety, said TranBC.

Bears are at risk of harm from these run-ins as well, they can become habituated to humans with too much close contact. Increased proximity or being fed causes bears to lose their natural fear of humans, leading to an increase in human-bear conflicts and vehicle-bear collisions.

If you spot a bear while driving on a B.C. highway, TranBC said the best thing to do is pass through the area cautiously (without stopping), watching for animals potentially darting onto the road.

If people do choose to stop, TranBC asks that they please only do so if there is a designated pullout area, stay in their vehicles and keep their distance so they do not disturb the bear. Simply leave if the bear begins to move closer.

READ MORE: WildSafeBC explains how to avoid bear encounters

TranBC also shared a ‘choose your own avoiding a bear jam strategy’ question.

Scenario: You and your children are driving along one of B.C.’s picturesque highways, such as they Sea to Sky, or Highway 4 to Vancouver Island’s west coast). Suddenly, you notice several stopped vehicles ahead and people gathered around, their attention drawn to a mother bear with her wee cub.

Should you:

A. Pull over slightly, tell the children to sit put, and grab your camera before setting up to take photos next to your vehicle?

B. Stop your vehicle on the road and get the children out of their car seats before joining the crowd, which is now only a few metres from the bears and see if they like eating Goldfish crackers?

C. Activate your vehicle’s flashing hazard lights to warn other drivers before slowing down and cautiously driving through the area while looking out for oncoming traffic and people/bears crossing the highway. Then observe the bears at a safe distance?

Answer: ‘C’ results in the safest bear jam avoidance strategy according to TranBC. It avoids contributing to an unsafe situation on the highway, where both the people and the bears were at risk.

TranBC said it understands bears are fascinating animals, but people’s enthusiasm can get the better of them, especially if they are unfamiliar with the vulnerable and unpredictable nature of B.C. wildlife.

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