A black bear wandering around the outside of Coquitlam Centre mall Monday evening was tranquilized and euthanized.
And police said the crowd that gathered was as much trouble as the bear as people were following it, even getting in its path in order to take a video or photograph it.
“They were’t giving it any space,” said Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin, who said Mounties had their hands full trying to control traffic and keep people away from the creature. At one point, 60 people were surrounding the bear trying to get a better look.
The surprising scene began around 8:30 p.m. when a solitary bear crossed Johnson Street to the Coquitlam Centre parking lot, then made its way to the mall entrance near H&M and Walmart.
Police were called and BC Conservation Officers responded at approximately 9:44 p.m., at which point the bear had travelled from the mall across Pinetree Way to a small green space off Glen Drive, where, surrounded by people, it tried to get to safety by climbing a tree.
At that point, conservation officers immobilized the bear with a tranquilizer dart but because it had a history of trying to get food in the area, it was taken away and euthanized.
“This is not something we like to do — it is not the conservation officer’s favourite part of the job by any means. [But] we have to deal with public safety and we have policy dealing with wildlife management,” Sgt. Todd Hunter told The Tri-City News. “Once they have that human food condition, they’re dangerous for that reason."
Conservation officers will now be canvassing the area looking for food attractants at businesses or homes. Problems including food and smells from grease pits may have attracted the bear to the busy City Centre, where it remained.
Hunter said reports of a bear matching the description of this bruin had been coming in for several days and, at one point, he said, it reportedly tried to enter a restaurant.
Some people were cautious seeing wildlife so close.
Kathlyn Reyes told The Tri-City News she was on her way to shop at Walmart when she saw the bear cross Johnson Street. She tried to warn people in the area and helped an elderly woman get to another bus stop well away from the bruin, which was moving at a fast clip.
“It was the first time I saw a bear and I was a little bit afraid,” Reyes said.
It’s not uncommon for bears to make their way out of the woods to City Centre and the malls along Johnson Street and Pinetree Way see at least one bear each summer, according to the BC Conservation Officer Service.
But a spokesperson for the Coquitlam Centre said security protocols are in place and staff are trained if a bear shows up.
This is the second bear killed in Coquitlam in less then a week. Last Thursday, a bear was trapped in Coquitlam River Park and destroyed because it was habituated to human food and knocked over a man who was camping in the bushes.
Hunter said conservation officers are busy fielding calls in the area and he hopes people learn from these incidents.
In Mundy Park, where a food ban is in place, there have been no conflicts reported, although there have been sightings of a female bear and two cubs.
Hunter attributes the lack of problems to the fact that there is no human food in the park and he hopes the bears will simply relocate in search of natural food.
“We’ve changed our behaviour and the bears have followed suit," he said.
• Bear sightings can be reported to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) phone line at 1-877-952-7277. Conservation officers are also recommending people carry bear bells, bear spray or an air horn if they are walking on trails frequented by bears.