British Columbia

They don't wanna live with a cinnamon bear: Colour morph black bear with cubs sparks curiosity, concern

Singer-songwriter writer Neil Young once sang "I wanna live with a cinnamon girl," but while the colour is certainly eye-catching, residents of a Fort St. John neighbourhood don't quite share the same attraction for the cinnamon-coloured black bear that's been dropping around lately.

Residents don't share the same affection as singer-songer writer Neil Young did for his cinnamon girl

A cinnamon-coloured black bear, along with her two cubs, has been spotted in the backyards of Fort St. John, B.C., residents for several days now. The Conservation Officer Service says the bears are exhibiting natural behaviour and do not need to be relocated. (Tyler and Nico Wilkinson)

Singer-songwriter writer Neil Young once sang "I wanna live with a cinnamon girl," but while the colour is certainly eye-catching, residents of a Fort St. John neighbourhood don't quite share the same attraction for the cinnamon-coloured black bear that's been dropping around lately.

The bear with two cubs has been spotted climbing into backyards this week, providing plenty of photo opportunities — and sparking concerns about the safety of both the bears and residents.

Stacy Kennedy had just put her seven-month-old into his high chair Tuesday afternoon when she heard a "ruckus" on her back patio. 

"When I looked out on the deck, it turned out it was a big mama bear," she said. "She went up on her hind legs, put her paws on my patio door. Obviously, I freaked out."

Kennedy grabbed her baby and ran to the bedroom where she watched the bear and its cubs begin chowing down on raspberries and play on her fence and shed before moving on to a neighbouring yard.

A cinnamon-coloured black bear has been spotted wandering a Fort St. John, B.C. neighbourhood with its two cubs. The bear is considered a subspecies of black bear. 1:08

She managed to capture video of the event and posted it to Facebook, where she discovered she wasn't the only person in the area to have an encounter with the family.

"I just kept seeing posts all over Facebook that they're still in the area, and apparently they still are today," she said. "It was actually really cute, but still a little bit scary because it's in your yard."

Though their colouring can make them look like grizzlies, cinnamon bears are a sub-species of black bear with a morphed fur colour. Other colour morphs include blue, blond and white.

The bears are 'surprisingly nimble' said Tamara Wilkinson whose sons, 14-year-old Tyler and 11-year-old Nico, snapped a series of photos of them scaling their six-foot-fence. (Tyler and Nico Wilkinson)

While the distinctive colour makes for a good picture, some people wonder why the bears have been allowed to wander a residential area without being relocated.

"These sacred creatures need to be kept safe and the only way to do that is by moving them," said Holly Hanson, who lives in the neighbourhood and has been asking the Conservation Officer Service to trap and move the trio. "All three deserve a chance, and that has to be away from humans."

Kennedy said she shares that opinion.

"I don't know what they're waiting for," she said. "Are they waiting for someone to get hurt and then they end up euthanizing a bear? Because that would just be devastating to me."

Conservation officers say the bears are still showing natural behaviour and a fear of humans. (Stacy Kennedy)

Alex Lyubomudrov of the Conservation Officer Service said his team was aware of the bears, but so far they've been exhibiting natural behaviour.

"They are still feeding on natural crops and still trying to avoid humans," he said. "So, at this time, we're just monitoring the situation."

Lyubomudrov said he is receiving phone calls about the bears "every hour" and each time he records the nature of the interaction to make sure the situation hasn't changed. He's also encouraging people in the neighbourhood to do what they can to make their yards less attractive to bears by harvesting fruits and berries and keeping garbage sealed away.

"It's really hard for bears to know where forests start and communities begin," he said. "So, as long as we manage our attractants, it is likely they will move on."

A rare cinnamon-coloured black bear with two cubs is wandering backyards in Fort St. John, attracting great photo opportunities and some worry about safety. 7:46

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About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.

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