The incident at the Vancouver Island store is just one among growing instances of bear encounters in B.C.
Jay and Karen deGoesbriand serve a variety of customers at their tiny Tipton Gas Bar in Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island — about a 92-kilometre drive northwest of Victoria — but they never expected a black bear to make it to their list of clientele.
Security camera footage from the store caught the bear casually walking in at around 6:30 a.m. on Monday, going through racks of chocolate bars before grabbing a 70-cent pack of gummy bears in its jaws and taking off — without paying.
"Mr. Bear then went out in the parking lot and ate it," said Jay, who was drinking coffee behind the counter at the time of the candy robbery.
The husband-and-wife duo said the bear didn't appear to be aggressive at all, but the brazen theft from the furry shoplifter certainly left an impression.
"I thought it was so cool," Karen said. "Obviously [the bear] has a sweet tooth."
The Lake Cowichan incident is just one among growing instances of bear encounters across B.C.
According to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS), there has been a high number of bear-related complaints this year, primarily concerning black bears.
In August alone, the COS received 5,963 calls about black bears, nearly double the previous high of 2,366 calls in 2011.
Len Butler, deputy chief for provincial operations, told CHEK News there are several reasons for the increase, including the weather's impact on bears' search for food.
"I think a lot of the areas, drought has impacted those berry crops and natural food sources, so where do the bears go?" he said. "They unfortunately come into the urban areas, which always have a lot of non-natural attractants."
In a previous interview with CBC News, the COS urged people who see any bears to contact them because the animal can become a danger to the public.
Once bears become both used to human food and unafraid of people, they can't be rehabilitated or relocated, the agency explained, "making the risk to public safety simply too great."
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