New information and additional sightings lead conservation officers to believe there is a grizzly bear in Knox Mountain Park in Kelowna’s north end.
The bear has not been seen doing anything that isn’t perfectly natural behaviour in natural wilderness surroundings, so officials don’t plan to close the park or track the animal, but they do warn members of the public to be alert when using the park.
CO Terry Myroniuk said both reports were that the bear was grazing in a remote area of the park, and he hasn’t shown any behaviour that gives them any safety concerns, such as showing aggression toward humans or habituating residential areas.
“Better he’s there than in town,” commented the CO.
Trevor Sharp of Kelowna was the first to report a sighting of the grizzly, after he and a cross fit group who were running up the Apex Trail in the park jogged over a little crest about 100 metres from the top.
“He was right in front of us, on the pathway,” he said. “It was terrifying. I was out of gas; exhausted, but I turned and bolted.
He admits that may not have been the best action to take, but “I just wanted to get out of there,” he said.
Although Sharp has lived in Kelowna the past 25 years or so, he says he grew up in Smithers, where it was not uncommon to see grizzlies, particularly since he had a friend who was a guide.
However, he said the last time he was that close to one, he had a firearm and was with a fishing guide.
Ironically, he said he took his wife and kids into the park a couple of weeks ago and told her there wouldn’t be a problem with bears in Knox Mountain Park.
In fact, he said he’s never seen any in all the years he’s been using the park, and certainly not a grizzly bear.
Myroniuk said there was another sighting reported this week in the same general area of the park, at the top.
There’s a large, contiguous tract of land from the park up to the Aberdeen Plateau where it wouldn’t be considered unusual to spot a grizzly, he noted.
Last fall, a grizzly bear was snared in a vineyard in the Lake Country area by conservation officers. Before he was relocated, far from town, he was equipped with a couple of yellow ear tags so he could be identified if he re-appeared.
No sightings have reported ear tags in this bear.
That one was estimated to be about 300 pounds, not very large for a grizzly bear.
About the same time, there were reports of one in the Gallagher’s Canyon area, and Myroniuk wondered at the time if they might be siblings who were travelling together.
The CO service is interested in hearing if anyone else sights the grizzly, so they can keep track of his movements, so if you see him, report it on the toll-free RAPP line at: 1-877-952-7277.
If it’s possible without putting yourself in danger, get a photo of him for officers, so it will be possible to enlarge it and see if there are any ear tags.
If you do come across a grizzly, he advises you take the same precautions you would if you came upon a black bear: give him his space, keep your distance and respect him as you move away.
“This is bear country,” he added.
Blair Stewart, urban forestry supervisor for the City of Kelowna, said bears have been seen in the 240-hectare park before, but he’s never heard of a grizzly there before.
The sightings are no reason to avoid the park, but he advises people to be careful and to report any sightings.
“It’s a natural park and you can expect to see wildlife there. It’s one of its features,” he commented.
Knox Mountain Park is probably one of the city’s most popular parks, he noted.