Bear activity expected to increase in Whistler valley in coming weeks 

Whistler Wildlife Protection Group holds first meeting

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MICHAEL ALLEN - BERRY CROP Some bears have returned to the valley floor as berries — like these of the Sitka mountain ash variety — become harder to find at high elevations
  • photo by michael Allen
  • BERRY CROP Some bears have returned to the valley floor as berries — like these of the Sitka mountain ash variety — become harder to find at high elevations

Bear activity in the Whistler valley is expected to increase during the rest of September and into October, due to a poor berry crop at higher elevations.

"People should expect to encounter bear activity, keep away from bears, and do not leave garbage nor open food containers in vehicles," wrote researcher Michael Allen in his Sept. 3 bear report.

"Bears have been observed foraging berries near the parking lots, park trails, and along Fitzsimmons Creek."

Residents and visitors are reminded to report bear sightings in residential and park areas to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) at 1-877-952-RAPP (7277) so officers can employ hazing methods.

The update comes on the heels of the first meeting of the Whistler Wildlife Protection Group — a citizen-led initiative that aims to find solutions for Whistler's bears.

About 25 people were on-hand for the Aug. 31 meeting, said organizer Ranya Dube.

"In the end we came up with a couple points that we think are a good place to start, like talking about Whistler's culture and kind of getting back to where we once were," Dube said. "So it's pretty interesting. There are lots of good ideas, lots of good stories to be heard from people."

Some topics and ideas discussed at the meeting: a mandatory greeting from local stakeholders to tourists explaining Bear Smart principles; the potential for third-party ticketing and increased fines around littering and; garbage pick up in local neighbourhoods (to name just a few).

The group is currently gathering information and research, and is planning on sending out invites to Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, the COS and researcher Allen to attend upcoming meetings.

The Whistler Wildlife Protection Group has scheduled two more meetings for Sept. 21 and Oct. 5 (times and locations to be confirmed — check the group's Facebook page for updates).

Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the Get Bear Smart Society, said it's nice to have some fresh ideas brought to the table.

"I think the very best thing is that a group that is interested in protecting bears has come together. I just think there's a lot of power in shared ideas," Dolson said. "There were tons of great ideas coming out of that meeting, and some really passionate people."

One of the ideas floated was an online test for locals that would train them to be Bear Smart, Dolson said. The hope is that local employers would take it on and make it mandatory for incoming workers.

"(It would be) something you have to do when you get a job with this company, and if somebody like Whistler Blackcomb took it on, or the municipality, wow, there's a whole lot of people," Dolson said.

The group is also cultivating a pool of volunteers to help achieve its goals.

"There's no definitive list yet on what everybody's decided the group wants to do, and so that remains to be seen," Dolson said.

Whatever direction they settle on, the group wants to take a positive approach, she added.

"It was clearly stated within that group that they want to do it in a very positive way, and only to help people understand that this is an important issue and that they're there to help fix it," she said. "We all know you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar right? And sometimes it's hard to remember that when the bees are stinging you."

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