William Konkin Elementary (WKE) in Burns Lake initiated a “shelter in place” procedure last week after three bears were spotted close to the school.
A shelter in place allows the school to continue with the normal school day, but forbids outside activity.
The shelter in place was initiated on advice from the RCMP on Thursday June 9, from approximately 10:30 a.m. to the end of the day, and for one hour on Friday morning.
“The school operated in a normal fashion with the exception that all staff and students had to remain in the building,” explained Mike Skinner, Director of Instruction for School District No. 91. “Parents were called to pick up their children at the end of the day if they were non-bus students; all busses ran at the normal times as the RCMP came to the school to ensure the safety of students and staff as they exited the building.”
According to Michal Bartos, a Smithers conservation officer who came to Burns Lake last week to assess the situation, the three bears included a mother and two juvenile bears.
Although locals were referring to the bears as “cubs,” Bartos explained that the bears were approximately one and a half years old. Other locals thought the mother bear was a grizzly; in fact, she is a black bear with a brown face.
The bears have been frequently seen by local residents in and around the green belts, a trail system close to the school.
When Bartos was in Burns Lake, he said no sighting was made.
“I personally did not see the bears,” he said. “We did not capture nor shoot the bears, so they are still there; we are assessing the situation and formulating a plan on the best strategy to deal with these bears.”
In the meantime, Bartos advises residents to avoid the area.
“If these bears are seen, give them space and let other people know that they are around,” he said. “Make sure your garbage is secure and disposed of.”
“After talking to a few people in the community, there were no reports of these bears being aggressive,” he added.