New funding to keep bears and people safe

“We are extremely happy with the funding and operational support," aid former Clearwater resident Frank Ritcey

The provincial government is providing $225,000 to Bear Aware, an effective educational program designed to reduce and prevent human-bear conflicts and the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year.

“We are extremely happy with the funding and operational support that the province supplies to this program. Because of this support we are able to partner with all types of other local organizations to provide a program that is really at the forefront of managing urban-wildlife conflicts,” said former Clearwater resident Frank Ritcey, the Bear Aware coordinator with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation.

The most effective and natural way to prevent conflicts with bears in urban areas is to put away food attractants like garbage, birdseed, compost and fruit. Communities where attractants are managed properly have seen a decline in related human-bear conflicts and in the number of bears that have to be destroyed. Bear Aware education is one component that must be completed for a community to obtain Bear Smart status. Bear Smart is a voluntary, preventative conservation measure that encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together. The goal is to address the root causes of human-bear conflicts, reducing the risk to public safety and private property.

“The responsibility to manage human-bear conflicts rests with everyone. It requires participation from all levels of government and local citizens to be successful,” said Terry Lake, Minister of Environment. “The province is pleased to continue support for Bear Aware. This new funding will help British Columbians understand why bears venture into their neighbourhoods and how to minimize conflicts with them.”

In 2012/13, the Conservation Officer Service received 25,184 calls regarding human-wildlife conflicts. Of those calls, 15,833 involved human-bear conflicts. During this same period, the total number of black bear calls was down slightly from the previous year, while grizzly conflicts were up.

Over the past five years in B.C., an average of 600 black bears have been destroyed each year, while 93 have been relocated due to conflicts with people.

Black bears typically emerge from hibernation between March and May.

Bears generally hibernate for three to five months on the south coast and for longer periods (five to seven months) in the interior and the north. Females, particularly pregnant ones, hibernate longer than males.

Hibernation is an important survival strategy for bears when their main foods – green vegetation, berries, salmon and insects – are not available in winter.

With only about six months to build up fat reserves for hibernation, black bears must eat a great deal of food. They are particularly attracted to foods that are abundant, high in protein and that they can get with little effort.

 

Four communities are currently designated Bear Smart: Kamloops, Squamish, Lions Bay and Whistler. Over 20 other communities in B.C. are actively pursuing Bear Smart status.