At least two reports of bear sightings in the Vankleek Hill area have local residents keeping an eye out while walking outdoor trails in the region.
Last week on two separate occasions several honeybee hives were destroyed by a bear on a private property on Ridge Road south of Vankleek Hill and earlier this week a bear was spotted near the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail just east of Highway 34. It is not known if it was the same bear in both incidents.
On Thursday, May 7, John Russell discovered heavy damage had been done overnight to a cluster of four honeybee hives in an open field on a property he owns on the Ridge Road. The hives are owned by honey-maker John McCaig and at first both Russell and McCaig speculated the culprit in the destruction was a raccoon. That it could have been a bear which caused the damage never crossed their minds.
“I’ve been living on the Ridge (Road) for 50 years and I have never seen or even heard of a bear here,” Russell said.
The pair repaired the hives on Thursday and there was no additional damage discovered during a further inspection on Friday morning. However just in case the perpetrator decided to return, McCaig and Russell worked together to set up a night vision trail camera which would hopefully capture the culprit in the act.
On Saturday, the pair returned to the hives to find them once again in pieces. After checking the camera, they saw it had taken multiple images overnight. Upon inspection, only one of the many photos taken by the camera showed the culprit – although fuzzy and somewhat blown out by the infra-red flash of the trail camera, an image captured at 3:20 a.m. clearly showed a bear’s head in the frame.
Damaged beyond repair this time, the bee hives were taken away instead of being repaired and the bear has made no further appearances on Russell’s property in the five days since the trail camera photo was taken. While many would think the bear was after the honey in the hives, Russell says it was most likely targeting the larvae of the bees, as bears are major insectivores. It is difficult to distinguish from the image the type of bear in the photo, but Russell believes it was most likely a black bear, as they are somewhat native to the region.
A second bear sighting in the area was reported on Sunday, May 11, on a private farm just east of Highway 34 near the Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail. The sighting was the subject of quite a bit of local Facebook chatter, with people advising their friends to use caution if they were going out for a walk or bike ride on the trail.
Nancy Reasbeck Leclair saw the bear early Sunday evening in a field behind the family’s farm on Happy Hollow Road. She believes it is the same bear that people in the area have been occasionally spotting for years and thinks it is no danger to humans.
“That bear has been hanging around here for years,” she said. “He comes here to eat the raspberry bushes and never bothers nobody.”
Reasbeck Leclair does advise, though, that people who are walking their dogs along the trail should be aware there could potentially be a bear in the area and might be best to keep them leashed so they don’t chase the bear.
The Ontario Ministry of Environment website notes that in an encounter with humans black bears will normally flee and attacks are extremely rare. If a person sees a black bear they should slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight and wait for it to leave.