When Jackie Rich first saw what looked like bear prints in her yard, she brushed it off thinking that couldn’t be right, until a few days later when she saw the bear.
She and her husband were sitting inside the house at the farm north of Craven when they looked up and spotted a bear wandering around their yard. She grabbed her cell phone and started taking video.
She said at first the bear started sniffing around the burning barrel looking for food near the Quonset in the yard.
“Then it proceeded towards our back deck and we actually thought it might be wanting to crawl up on the deck,” she said. “It didn’t look that young or that old, so I’m not really sure how old of a bear it was, but it was a very odd sight. It was really strange to see it.”
Rich said she hasn’t seen the bear come back and none of her neighbours have seen it since then either. But she did hear rumours about another bear sighting closer to the town of Craven.
After seeing her video shared hundreds of times on Facebook, Rich has also heard that some people have seen a bear near Katepwa. The Town of Esterhazy has also posted an advisory about a bear sighting.
Rich said this is the first time either she or her husband has ever seen or heard of a bear in the area.
“He’s lived here his whole life and we’ve never spotted a bear,” she said, noting that they live about six miles north of Craven. “We see moose, we see deer – you know common things like that, but never a bear, so it was very, very startling to see it.”
She isn’t too concerned about the bear, since they don’t have any pets or animals outside, but she posted the video to let other people know.
Although people might typically associate “bear territory” with major forested areas and regions to the north, conservation officers like Rich Hildebrand say the black bear population is quite healthy across southern Saskatchewan.
“It’s not unusual to see them out in the wild at this time of year, they’re moving around – especially young ones – they tend to be on the move looking for a territory they can call home,” he explained.
He said the range for black bears does include the Qu’Appelle Valley.
“They tend to let their noses and their stomachs rule them so they’re looking for food,” he said.
Hildebrand also explained that it is very rare to get a report of a dangerous encounter between a bear and a human in Saskatchewan.
“They are a wild animal and most bears are very cautious around humans and it’s rare that they will charge or even chase a human or attack in normal situations,” he said, noting that they are still unpredictable.
The common sense approach to bear safety is to back away slowly and speak softly without looking directly at a bear. If you do encounter a bear, his advice is don’t try to outrun it but don’t play dead either.
As for protecting your own property, Hildebrand noted that it is important not to leave garbage or pet food lying around because it can be a food source.