Sep 18, 2012 / 6:57 pm
Two aggressive bear encounters this afternoon forced the closure of the entire Sutherland Hills section of Mission Creek Regional Park.
The two instances occurred within a short time of each other. In the first case a visitor with a dog on leash came upon the mother bear and two cubs and the sow stood up and became agitated. The visitor was able to safely get away. The second incident saw another hiker unexpectedly confront the bear, and the park visitor was again able to quickly backtrack from a serious incident.
As a result, the Cottonwoods and Kokanee bridges over Mission Creek and all entrances to the Sutherland Hills section of the park near Hall Road have been closed. For their safety, park visitors must stay out of signed, closed areas or they may be ticketed with a $500 fine. Worse yet, they could suffer injuries if there is a serious encounter with a bear.
During this closure, Kokanee interpretive programs will be moved to other locations for the safety of park visitors and so as not to interfere with the bears.
Communications Officer Bruce Smith says, “We’ve had four bears (a male, female and two cubs) roaming in this section of the park. Today’s incidents are the first reports of potentially serious conflicts. When we start getting sightings and staff sees evidence of bears in our parks and along trails, we post signs advising all park users of recent bear activity. As dictated by our Regional Parks Wildlife Policy, when aggressive behavior is exhibited, the danger and risk to the public substantially increases. That’s why we’ve taken the extraordinary steps of closing the Sutherland Hills section of Mission Creek Regional Park and the main trail into Hardy Falls Regional Park, where there is little opportunity for a safe escape.”
Smith adds, it’s not unusual at this time of year to see evidence of bears in many of our regional parks, since they are natural corridors to the higher elevation habitat. And with Kokanee returning to area creeks and fruit crops ripening in valley orchards, both plentiful sources of food, bear sightings always increase.
To reduce your chance of encountering a bear while hiking, it’s recommended that you travel in a group, make noise or carry something that makes noise to alert any wildlife in advance to your presence. Smith reminds park visitors that, “Bears fishing for food in area creeks may not hear you over the noise of the rushing water. If you see a bear, give it plenty of space and stay well away from it.”
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