The bear and her four little ones seemingly had no interest in the school just a half kilometre down the road.
Dismissal was about a half hour away at Madeline Symonds Middle School when Erin Hancock encountered the bear crossing on White Hills Run in Hammonds Plains. The nature lover didn’t panic, though two of her kids attend the school and were about to walk the roadway home Monday afternoon.
“I feel comfortable with wildlife and they were gorgeous,” recalled Hancock, a mother of four who was driving to work at the time.
The Hammonds Plains resident snapped a picture of the rare spectacle, capturing four of the five animals, and posted the photo on her local community Facebook page.
“I just wanted parents and families to know that momma’s out there with her cubs.”
The post sparked a bit of frenzy among locals. But no bear attack was reported.
“Lots of reaction,” she said with a laugh. “Sightings aren’t all that uncommon around here but that’s the first time I’ve seen cubs in the seven years I lived here.”
Pamela Lovelace has a daughter attending Madeline Symonds and said she’s concerned about the bears and wants assurance that the school is taking the recent sighting seriously.
“I would seriously like to know who is monitoring this risk,” said Lovelace. “No messages were sent home notifying parents or the community at large.”
Lovelace contacted her MLA but did not get a response.
The Chronicle Herald reached out to school principal Kim Acorn and Doug Hadley, spokesman for Halifax Regional Centre for Education, but did not get a response.
Hancock thinks a wildlife officer should be invited to the school to teach students about bear safety.
“I’m not against living with wildlife but I do think it’s a good opportunity to raise awareness.”
Michael Boudreau, a Natural Resources Department human wildlife conflict biologist, said black bears are currently on the move trying to fatten up before hibernating over winter. The serious frost this summer that decimated farm crops had the same effect on the berries bears rely on: chokecherries, raspberries blueberries and wild strawberries.
It could help explain why the bears were spotted so close to the community’s residential area, he said. They were likely after compost bins.
He said a mother black bear tends to protect her cubs aggressively so people need to keep their distance.
“It’s no different than any other wild animal. People need to give them space and ensure that they’re not intentionally feeding them with the compost bins. If they are in the neighbourhood, people need to take extra precautions to clean those bins out to prevent them from returning.”
Bins targeted by bears should be cleaned thoroughly with soap, including the bottom grate that tends to collect gunk and attract the animals.
“If they come back and there’s no food, they’re not going to waste time looking for something that isn’t there.”