Bear mother story, with a twist

  • Dec. 24, 2008 1:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay – This is a Bear Mother story with a twist . . . and a happy ending. Last week, 19 year-old Ashley Jones of Queen Charlotte was heading to work at the Sea Raven Motel when she noticed some ravens making a lot of noise in a tree behind the building. The birds were taunting and pecking at a baby bear tucked into the branches. Ms Jones called out and shooed the ravens away, but when she turned to leave, the birds returned to torment the cub again. Rather than leave the bear to whatever brutal fate was in store, she sat down to keep vigil at the base of the tree. That was the moment when the bear imprinted on her, she says, and changed the course of her next two days. Soon the bear crawled out of the tree and came down to snuggle in beside her. “He thought I was his mom,” she said. “We got pretty close.” She and her family kept an eye out for the bear, who they heard had been seen around town for a quite a while. Her dad, Tony Jones, said the bear, which was only about 20 pounds and “wasn’t much more than a teddy bear” in size, had even been seen on the QC dock. He said it was amazing to see how the bear took to his daughter. “It freaked my wife out though,” he said, recounting an incident when the bear saw Ms Jones walk into the apartment where the family is staying while looking after the motel. “When she [his wife] opened the door, the bear shoved his paw in there,” he said. The little bear pushed its way in and scampered down the hall to the bedroom where Ms Jones was and jumped on the bed. That’s when he saw himself in the mirror on the closet door, she said. He ran at it, like it was another bear, and then just curled up in the closet as if to go to sleep. “He was really, really cute,” she said. Later, when she was at her house, the bear was out on the front deck of the Oceanview Restaurant and got trapped up in the rafters after the family’s English bulldog chased it. A crowd of people were trying unsuccessfully to get the bear down, but Mr. Jones knew his daughter would be able to do it. He went and got her and she lured it down with apples. She then encouraged the bear to go back to the tree it had turned into a home. But after two days, the incredible experience came to an end. The baby bear was sent to Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers on the Dec. 18 ferry. Ms Jones wasn’t aware until she talked with the Observer that the bear hadn’t been put down. When Conservation Officer James Hilgemann trapped the bear earlier that day, he’d told the Jones family that the bear would likely have to be shot. But luckily, he was able to arrange transport for the bear on the ferry and on to Smithers with the help of the Prince Rupert Wildlife Shelter. The bear will spend the winter in Smithers and be returned to the islands in the spring. All in all, it was really fun, said Ms Jones, but she’s happy the bear is gone. “Sure he’s cute now, but big and scary later,” she said. Although she misses the bear, she realizes she shouldn’t make any effort to see it again when it comes back to the islands.