Situated in some of the best bear habitat in British Columbia, it is not unusual for Castlegar residents to see bears passing through their community, which is nestled between two rivers in the Selkirk Mountains.
Bears would often enter town to feed on unsecured garbage and other attractants, creating ongoing challenges for conservation officers and the city of 8,000 residents. Many communities throughout B.C. are challenged to coexist with bears, but after several years of hard work and dedication, Castlegar has officially become a Bear Smart community.
“Human-wildlife conflict is a serious issue in B.C. We all have a responsibility to proactively manage our attractants, such as garbage and fruit trees, and become bear smart,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Achieving Bear Smart status is difficult, but communities that have Bear Smart status have seen significant declines in bear conflicts. I congratulate Castlegar for taking action to achieve Bear Smart status.”
The Bear Smart Community Program is a voluntary, preventative conservation measure that encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together to reduce conflicts with bears. Designed by the ministry, in partnership with the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the program is based on six criteria, such as developing a bear-human conflict plan and a continuing education program, which communities must meet to achieve Bear Smart status.
In Castlegar, where residential areas are clustered along the shores of the Columbia River, a progressive solid waste management plan was developed to make garbage inaccessible to wildlife. This included implementing bear-resistant residential garbage cans, communal dumpsters in high-conflict areas, and strict regulations around the storage of garbage and collection-day practices.
In addition, the city developed a Bear Hazard Assessment to identify current and potential risks, followed by a Human-Bear Conflict Management Plan to address the identified hazards and land-use conflicts. Since 1999, the city has supported WildSafeBC outreach and education initiatives, such as annual school presentations, farmers market booths and neighbourhood garbage patrols. The program also uses signboards whenever bears are active.
A collaborative Bear Attractant Response Strategy was also created, in partnership with WildSafeBC and the city’s bylaw office, to ensure consistent communication and response to bear attractant issues and complaints.
Castlegar is the tenth community in B.C. to obtain official Bear Smart status, joining Kamloops, Squamish, Lions Bay, Whistler, Port Alberni, Naramata, New Denver, Coquitlam and Port Hardy.
Doug Forsdick, chief conservation officer, B.C. Conservation Officer Service –
“The B.C. Conservation Officer Service commends the hard work and dedication of Castlegar to help reduce human-wildlife conflicts and obtain Bear Smart status. We know it’s not an easy task, but we hope other communities will now turn to Castlegar as an example of how properly managing attractants can help our wildlife stay wild. Bear Smart practices truly make a difference in the number of human-bear conflicts communities report, which means fewer bears are destroyed. Thank you again for all of your perseverance and hard work.”
Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, MLA for Kootenay West –
“People in Castlegar know that bears will always be in and out of our community. With everyone doing their part to remove attractants and prevent encounters, both Castlegar and the bears are much better off. Congratulations to everyone for this designation, and thank you for keeping your community and its wild neighbours safe.”
Kirk Duff, City of Castlegar –
“It is great to see the City of Castlegar and, more importantly, our residents get recognized as a Bear Smart community. This accomplishment is possible because of a collective effort by our community to change everyday habits and activities relating to things such as garbage and fruit trees to reduce conflicts with bears in Castlegar.”
- In 2020, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service received more than 36,000 calls related to human-wildlife conflicts.
- In 2009, Kamloops was the first community to earn Bear Smart status.
- Communities where attractants are managed properly have seen a decline in related human-wildlife conflicts and in the number of animals destroyed.
- The most effective and natural way to reduce human-wildlife interaction is to secure food attractants, such as garbage, birdseed, compost, pet food and fruit.
For more information on the Bear Smart Community Program and the list of criteria to become Bear Smart, visit:
For more information on the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, visit: