Traps set for unwanted guest grizzlies off northeastern Vancouver Island

Young male grizzly makes sure the coast is clear before diving into the salmon river in the Great Bear Rainforest. Aug 31, 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.

Grizzly bears have never been seen on Cormorant Island, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, so when two showed up in the area, residents were intrigued but firm — the duo must go.

"It's very exciting to have them here, but this isn't a safe place for them," said Village of Alert Bay chief administration officer Justin Beadle.

About 1,000 people live on the 4.5-square kilometre island, and Beadle said there had been no conflicts since the bruins' arrival on Friday, adding residents had been warned not to look for the bears and to stay off walking paths.

The bears are believed to be two- to three-year-old brothers from the central coast and were likely forced westward by a dominant male, Forests Ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas said Monday.

Grizzlies are not native to Vancouver Island, although she said the ministry was aware of about 10 bears swimming to the region over the last decade in search of new territory.

The Conservation Officer Service sent a warning to Alert Bay that the bears had been island-hopping westward for about 10 days, so residents were very interested when the healthy pair waded ashore, Beadle said.

"This is the first time in history, according to the locals, that grizzly bears have appeared here. Every five to 10 years a black bear might pass by, but there (have) never been grizzlies."

Cormorant Island would be bountiful for bears and the animals would never need to eat garbage because the island is a cornucopia of fruits and berries, Beadle said.

"But there is a little section of forest somewhere that is much better suited for them."

Conservation officers set up traps at the local campground on Sunday and on Monday were using bear bangers, a non-lethal, hand-held type of explosive, to shepherd the bruins toward the traps so they could be safely caged.

The bears will be relocated to a safe place on B.C.'s central coast if they are caught, Beadle said.

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