Jay and Karen deGoesbriand serve a variety of customers at their small Tipton Gas Bar on Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, about 92 kilometers northwest of Victoria, but they never expected a black bear to make it onto their customer list.
Footage from the store’s security cameras captured the bear casually walking in around 6:30 a.m. Monday, browsing shelves of candy bars before grabbing a 70-cent package of gummy bears in its jaws and leaving, without pay.
“Mr. Bear came out to the parking lot and ate it,” said Jay, who was drinking coffee behind the counter at the time of the candy theft.
The husband and wife duo said the bear didn’t appear to be aggressive at all, but the furry thief’s brazen theft certainly left an impression.
“I thought it was cool,” Karen said. “Obviously [the bear] “He has a sweet tooth.”
The Lake Cowichan incident is just one of the growing cases of bear encounters in British Columbia.
According to the BC Conservation Officer Service (COS), there have been a large number of bear-related complaints this year, primarily involving black bears.
In August alone, the COS received 5,963 calls about black bears, nearly double the previous high of 2,366 calls in 2011.
Len Butler, deputy chief of provincial operations, told CHEK News there are several reasons for the increase, including the impact of the weather on bears’ foraging.
“I think in many areas the drought has affected berry crops and natural food sources, so where are the bears going?” he said. “Unfortunately they reach urban areas, where there are always many non-natural attractions.”
In a previous interview with Breaking:, the COS urged people who see bears to contact them because the animal may become a danger to the public.
Once bears become accustomed to human food and no longer fear people, they cannot be rehabilitated or relocated, the agency explained, “making the risk to public safety simply too great.”