Edmonton·Audio

'It was the craziest day': Black bear cub wanders into Slave Lake barbershop

A black bear cub wandered into a barbershop in a northern Alberta town on Wednesday.

Expert says Albertans need to be more bear aware, as bear sightings become more common

A black bear wreaked havoc inside LionsDen Barbershop in Slave Lake on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2019. (Mikey Dicks/Facebook)

A black bear cub wandered into a barbershop in a northern Alberta town on Wednesday. 

And it wasn't looking for a haircut. 

It was an unexpected sight for Sam Assaf, owner of LionsDen Barbershop in Slave Lake, about 250 kilometres north of Edmonton.

He had never seen a bear in-person.

"It was just so wild that day, it was the craziest day," Assaf told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Thursday. 

Assaf was in a car with his wife discussing lunch plans when they spotted the bear across the street from his barbershop. 

"We were aware that there were bears around. It was on the local news," he said. 

But the bear then walked towards his barbershop's open door. 

"This bear was kind of looking through the windows and you know, kind of looking for an entrance," Assaf said. "And my wife was like, 'Go close the door.' I'm thinking, 'No way,'" Assaf said. "I'm not going to take a risk.

"Next thing you know it, the whole town heard about it," Assaf said, as people started taking photos and posting them to social media.

This black bear cub was spotted walking around Slave Lake on Wednesday. (Amal Sleiman/Facebook)

A brave passerby closed the door behind the bear to contain him in the shop. 

Assaf called 9-1-1 and then Alberta Fish and Wildlife. Police and wildlife officers showed up to deal with the black bear cub.

The officers told all the onlookers, who might have been frightening the bear, to stay away from the window. 

"A few minutes later after everybody kind of scattered, the bear came out and then the whole police unit followed him and chased him to the bushes," Assaf said. "They tried to lead him somewhere out of harm's way."

The animal was in the shop for at most, 30 minutes. 

"He was like terrorizing the place," said Assaf, whose shop had only been open three weeks. "He defecated in my barbershop. He was sitting on my shelf. He put everything on the ground."

No one was hurt in the incident. 

Assaf said he hopes it will be his first, and last, encounter with a bear. 

Bear country

Kim Titchener, founder of Bear Safety and More, an organization that works with industry and government agencies on human-wildlife conflict and safety, said Albertans need to be more bear aware, as bear sightings become more common in urban environments. 

A Mayerthorpe woman is happy to be alive after three grizzlies came pawing at her back door. 7:44

"A lot of development is going further and further into nature, essentially getting into bear territory," Titchener said. "This is par for the course. This is what it's like to live in bear country."

Alberta communities need to be more bear smart, Titchener said, starting with dealing with attractants such as garbage bins and food left outside for dogs or birds. 

"Oh my gosh, bears love dog food, it's delicious. It's got lots of fat and calories. And if you're a bear walking around looking for grass and berries and clover and you come across something that has lots of fat and calories in it, you're going to choose that food source over having to spend hours and hours a day trying to feed yourself," Titchener said.

Wildlife management is a challenge, Titchener said, because of expanding communities. 

"We've got people building homes right in river valleys where bear movement, wildlife movement, is very high. And it's not planned out well. And so you know this is something that's just going to continue to be a concern."

For his part, Assaf said he's going to be closing his door during the summer from now on.

"I thought I'd seen it all," Assaf said. "But that day, yesterday, now I've seen it all. I've seen everything." 

About the Author

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca or on Twitter @TandiwayK (https://twitter.com/TandiwayK).

With files from Sheena Rossiter

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