Black bears are way bigger than I thought, especially when you see them up close. But, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.
We’ve returned to Vancouver Island for our annual week at the beach. Yes, Parksville is a beautiful place with surf (no, scratch that) sand and sun, but we’ve been here before so everything is a bit – well – predictable. You know what I mean – it’s exactly three minutes and twenty-seven seconds to drive to the nearest Tim Hortons (where the drive thru takes eight minutes to deliver your coffee), and the walk from our accommodation to the beach takes somewhere between two minutes five seconds and six minutes, depending on which apartment we score on the booking site. Ok, so this particular apartment is so close to the beach that we get crabs in the cornflakes each morning, but it just feels like something is missing. Then, I look at the visitors book entry from the last guest. “Saw a black bear with her cubs walking on the beach this morning.” Aw, how sweet. Better Google black bears.
Oh – so a male black bear can weigh up to 300kgs, and can cover around 500 square kilometres. But, they only get aggressive if you enter their personal space – oh, that can range from a few metres to a few hundred metres – and the beach is only about five metres from our front window. But, fortunately, female bears are less aggressive – oh, unless they have cubs. Looks like it wasn’t so dumb to buy that 50+ sunscreen with added bear repellent after all eh?
Morning dawns, then another, and still no sign of anything more dangerous than a tired two-year-old. Kirsty looks up from picking a few errant decapod crustaceans from her morning cereal. “I think we’ll take a drive along the Alberni Highway this morning and see what we find.” Sounds good to me, I still have wistful memories of the hot dogs we had a couple of years back at Port Alberni – ah, the home smoked bacon, the five types of cheese, the … I’m snapped back from my gastronomic reverie by the words “we won’t go as far as Port Alberni, but there’s a great wilderness area and a wildlife rescue centre we can visit.
So, here we are at the wildlife centre. It’s actually pretty cool with a mix of static displays and live animals rescued and rehabilitated from injuries that cancel any chance of survival in the wild. Still, I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t seen a bear.
It’s late morning, and the kids are hungry. The rest of the family heads back to the car ready to drive to the diner down the road. I’m about to go when I spot a very lifelike bear statue behind one of the trees along the path behind the centre. Time for a quick pic. I’m reviewing the pic on the way back and notice it’s pretty blurry. No time to go back for another, I better run or I’ll be left behind. Then, to my surprise, I find all the family stopped beside an exhibit that was empty when we passed earlier. There, sitting in a big plastic water trough is Knut, the resident black bear. Wow, this guy is big! Way bigger than I imagined, but it’s just impossible to look scary when you’re sitting in your water tub like an oversized teddy.