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UPDATE: Black bear's visit makes for wild afternoon in downtown New West

Black bear was tranquilized and moved to a more natural habitat

A black bear sighting made for an interesting Sunday afternoon for some folks in downtown New West.

Quayside resident Brittany Tessaman-Wong had just gone outside to wait for her Uber Eats delivery when she spotted the bear walking on the nearby train tracks.

“I’ve never seen a bear. Never in my whole entire life,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned. I was speechless. I was in awe.”

Tessaman-Wong said police cars arrived in the area, so she was confident they were aware of the bear’s presence.

“It wasn’t that far away,” she said. “If it got loose, I would have been dashing in my house.”

On Sunday afternoon , the New Westminster Police Department received a call that a black bear was wandering east along the railway tracks in the area of Stewardson Way. Police issued a warning to the public about walking in the area, as the bear had made its way to the 1000 block of Quayside Drive.

Police met with B.C. Conservation Officer Services and assisted in the capture and safe transportation of the bear.

“Safely capturing the bear required a brief closure of Columbia Street,” said NWPD spokesperson Sgt. Sanjay Kumar. “We were happy to assist the BC Conservation Officers and we want to thank the public for their patience.”

In consultation with wildlife biologists, conservation officers relocated the bear outside of the city, stated the New Westminster Police Department.

Phil Greene, a bylaw officer with the City of New Westminster, said bylaw officers were in attendance for part of the bear’s visit to New West – but when the bear posed no risk to the public, they left to tend to two  emergency raccoon calls. When they returned, he said police and conservation officers had the situation under control.

At the time Greene spoke with the Record Sunday afternoon, he hadn’t been able to confirm with police whether the bear had been shot or tranquilized , but he was quite confident the bear would live to see another day.

“It appeared that the conservation officer took a long rifle out of his vehicle. The sound that came out of that rifle was a hiss. I would say there is a 99% chance that was a tranq gun. Thank goodness the bear was not shot,” he said. “I did see the CO (conservation officer) tagging an ear – they wouldn’t be tagging a dead bear. There was no gun shot. It definitely, I am almost positive it was a tranq gun, which made me a lot happier.”

Greene said bylaw officers first encountered the bear near Stewardson Way.

“Where we found him, with the city’s tow guys, was in the ICBC parking lot,” he said. “So, towing and animal services were able to get him back onto the tracks.”

Once police arrived, animal services responded to calls about injured raccoons on Columbia Street – one near El Santo restaurant and another near Royal Columbian Hospital. Back at the Quay, police and conservation officers were able to corner the bear in a small green space near the railway tracks and Quayside Drive.

“He was just a young one. Probably about a year old, maybe a year-and-a-half old,” Greene said. “He climbed a few trees to get away from us. All we wanted to do is get him onto the tracks so he would head home.”

Quayside resident Mary Lessard didn’t get a good look at the bear, but said her neighbour told her the police and conservation officers brought out some food to get the bear to get in a position where they could tranquilize it with a dart. She said it took six people to lift the bear and load it into a truck.

Greene encourages residents to keep their distance if they see a bear in town – for their safety and for the bear’s safety. He said a couple of looky-loos in vehicles got fairly close to the bear, which caused the bear to climb trees a couple of times and delayed efforts to help the bear.

“Unless the bear was a grizzly, that bear is far more frightened of you than you are of it. If they have a way out, they will take it,” he said. “Maybe it was safe for them, but that bear felt very threatened. He climbed the tree on two occasions at ICBC. We had to get rid of the people, and then maybe wait another half hour where the bear felt comfortable enough to come down.”

While the bear was quite young, Greene said it’s likely the bear was on its own.

“He’s going to be of the age where he had probably left mom,” he said. “Mom didn’t tell him to stay away from inhabited areas.”


Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus