The provincial government is providing $225,000 over the next 12 months to bring the popular Bear Aware program to more communities around the province.
Bear Aware is an education program focused on reducing human-bear conflict in residential neighbourhoods through education, innovation and co-operation. It is administered by the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) and has proven to be an effective tool to decrease conflicts. Last year, 22 communities participated in the program.
The most effective and natural way to prevent conflicts with bears in urban areas is to put away food attractants such as garbage, bird seed, compost and fruit. In communities where attractants are managed properly, there has been a decline in related human-bear conflicts and in the number of bears that have to be destroyed. In Kamloops, over 23 bears were destroyed every year because of conflicts with people, but since 2004 that number has decreased to four bears per year on average. The city hired its first Bear Aware co-ordinator in 2002.
Bear Aware education is one criterion that must be met 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. It is based on a series of criteria that communities must meet to be designated as Bear Smart. The goal is to address the root causes of human-bear conflicts to reduce the risks to public safety and private property, as well as the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year.
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.
The Conservation Officer Service (COS) is the primary responder to human-wildlife conflicts where there is a risk to public safety, conservation concerns or where significant property damage has occurred. In 2011/12 the COS received approximately 37,500 calls regarding human-wildlife conflicts. Of those calls, approximately 23,800 involved human-bear conflicts. Over the past five years in B.C., an average of 600 black bears was destroyed each year, while 93 were relocated.
Recent amendments to the Wildlife Act give conservation officers the ability to issue tickets or court appearance notices to deal with people who repeatedly and negligently fail to secure attractants. These tools complement existing tools and are expected to reduce the number of bears that come into conflict with people.
Communities can apply for the Bear Aware program by visiting: www.bearaware.bc.ca
Terry Lake, Minister of Environment -
"Our continued support of the Bear Aware program, without a doubt, has reduced the number of bears that have to be destroyed. We're making this funding available so that more communities can learn how to keep bears out of their yards and neighbourhoods - and that helps keep bears out of trouble."
Lance Sundquist, chief conservation officer -
"Bear Aware teaches people about proper attractant management, and that significantly reduces human-bear conflict. This not only helps to preserve public safety, but also reduces the number of bears that conservation officers have to destroy, which is our ultimate goal."
Frank Ritcey, Bear Aware co-ordinator, British Columbia Conservation Foundation -
"This support will help to expand and continue community programs that teach people how to avoid conflicts with wildlife. We encourage communities to contact us to see how we can bring a Bear Aware program to your community."
- 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 in regions such as British Columbia where 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 and high in protein and energy and that they can get with little effort.
Information on the "Bear Smart" Communities program: www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/bearsmart/bearsmintro.html
Report human-wildlife conflicts to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line toll-free at 1 877 952-7277 (RAPP), or visit the RAPP website at: www.rapp.bc.ca
Ministry of Environment
Frank Ritcey, BA.
Provincial Bear Aware Coordinator
BC Conservation Foundation
Phone 250 828-2551