RWED officer Jerry Hordal stands beside one of Hay River's bear traps. - Andrew Raven/NNSL photo
It was the second time this year that animal control experts have relocated a mother and two cubs, but according to RWED's Jerry Hordal, that isn't unusual.
"Every year we get a few bears in town," said Hordal. "They tend to follow the river and like to eat the berries on Vale Island."
Hordal was alerted of the bears' presence Monday morning by Big Way owner John Hill, who spotted them around 7:30 am.
"They just sort of poked their heads out from the bushes, but they didn't cross the rail road tracks," he said.
RWED officers set a trap -- essentially an oil drum with a spring loaded door -- near the Big Way and managed to corral the mother by early evening. But her cubs ran up a tree, just a few feet away.
Hordal brought another trap out and laced it with sardines and fish, but every time the cubs got close the mother howled, scolding them back up into the tree.
"I guess she was telling them to watch out," said Hordal.
RWED officers faced another problem. The cubs weren't heavy enough to trip the latch on the cage, so officers had to pull the door closed with a rope.
"The third time they came down from the tree, they finally went into the trap," said Hordal. "Once we saw their feet disappear, we closed the door."
Officers released the bears a little while later along the road to Fort Smith.
"We went a little farther than we usually do because this was a family ... and mothers are quite protective of their cubs ," said Hordal.
Hordal says dozens of black bears are spotted in Hay River every year and most are just passing through. But he cautioned they will take advantage of food left out by people.
"They're opportunistic. If they see food, especially fish or garbage, they'll grab it."
He suggested that residents cover their garbage, keep food indoors and above all avoid feeding the bears.
According to RWED if you do come in contact with a bear, avoid eye contact and back away slowly.
If it's a black bear, don't scurry up a tree or play dead.
They can climb and catch a fake.