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Black bear goes for gummy bears at Lake Cowichan store

“Then this little bugger has the nerve to sit at the end of my driveway, look at me and eat it,” says the owner of Tiptons Gas Bar
A black bear wanders through a Lake Cowichan gas bar and convenience store on Monday. He snagged a single bag of gummy bears and left without doing any damage. Or paying. TIPTONS GAS BAR LAKE COWICHAN

So this black bear walks into a corner store in Lake Cowichan.

He ambles past the bait freezer, ice cream case, chip stand and chocolate bars, and then sniffs over the candy selection.

Hmmm, the bear seems to say — this small bag of five-cent gummy bears will do just fine.

He gingerly snares the bag in his jaws, saunters past the stunned owner and out through the open door.

“Then this little bugger has the nerve to sit at the end of my driveway, look at me and eat it,” Jay deGoesbriand, who owns Tiptons Gas Bar on North Shore Road, said with a laugh.

“He just decided to come in and do some shopping … without paying.”

DeGoesbriand usually opens at 5 a.m. and had just swept and tidied up and was enjoying a morning coffee on Monday when the bear — estimated to be about two years old — calmly walked in and started sniffing around.

“He wasn’t aggressive at all,” said deGoesbriand.

“He didn’t knock anything over. He never even looked at me. It was pretty weird.”

DeGoesbriand, who also owns a pet store in Lake Cowichan, has operated Tiptons Gas Bar since 2017.

He’s seen shoplifting before, but never from a bruin. “That’s definitely a first for me,” he said, noting he captured the thief on the store’s surveillance- video system.

The bear returned to the store on Tuesday, but this time, the door was closed, said deGoesbriand.

The Lake Cowichan incident follows a rash of bear encounters across the province this summer and fall. In August alone, more than 6,000 complaints about bears were logged with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service — nearly double the 3,500 received in the same month a year ago.

September’s data and incidents from October are still being compiled and the service is expecting record months.

As hibernation draws near, black bears have a natural ­obsession with gaining weight to survive a long sleep, and their powerful sense of smell — about six times greater than a bloodhound’s — drives them to food sources.

Often, that urge to feed makes bears lose their fear of humans.

BearWise B.C., an advocacy group for the animals, said by fall, bears are foraging up to 20 hours a day in a “power-eating marathon” called hyperphagia.

During hyperphagia, bears need to eat 10 times the calories they normally consume — at least 20,000 calories a day — to put on as much weight and insulating fat as possible before turning in for the winter.

Gummy bears, clearly, are just the start.

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