Bears still accessing Pemberton Music Festival grounds 

Conservation officers responded to 20 calls for service during event

click to flip through (2) FACEBOOK PHOTO - Bear Staredown An RCMP officer keeps an eye on a bear perched in a tree along Lorimer Road last week.
  • Facebook photo
  • Bear Staredown An RCMP officer keeps an eye on a bear perched in a tree along Lorimer Road last week.
 
 

A week after the conclusion of the Pemberton Music Festival, local conservation officers were continuing to receive reports of bears accessing the event grounds.

Inspector Chris Doyle of the Conservation Officer Service (COS) confirmed that bears were on the 120-hectare site as late as Sunday, July 27, when a report came in of two cubs accessing garbage remaining on the grounds.

Festival producers HUKA Entertainment, who provided comment through media liaison Teresa Trovato, wrote in an email that garbage bins were "in the same secure area during (the cleanup) process as they were stationed during the event," and that all containers were removed offsite by Sunday night. The receptacles were placed behind fenced-in areas in the campgrounds and venue grounds, HUKA noted, and were maintained and replaced daily by staff from U.S.-based event waste and recycling service provider, Clean Vibes.

HUKA also said the cubs did not access any food waste but an area full of debris, such as tents and coolers, left by campers.

During the festival's five days, July 16 to 20, the COS received 20 calls for service, Doyle said, and had to immobilize one bear and haze away several others.

"There was a number of bears within the fenced-in area (of the festival)," he said. "Whether they were fenced in or they came in through the fence later, we're not sure."

In response, HUKA said only one bear accessed the site during the festival "via an unknown route," and was not removed from the grounds as it was not deemed a risk to the public by conservation officers.

The COS met with organizers HUKA Entertainment prior to the event to provide input on wildlife management, "but obviously there were still some issues there," Doyle said.

"We'd like to see no bears accessing food or garbage at the site, so we're concerned anytime we have to intervene and prevent bears from getting into conflict or immobilize bears," he added.

The wildlife plan was endorsed by the COS during event planning, HUKA said, adding that organizers "have not received any negative feedback from conservation officers to date in regards to the planning or execution of the event or the plan they endorsed."

A handful of bear sightings were reported at the inaugural 2008 festival, organized by Live Nation, Doyle noted, in addition to a small number of bears accessing garbage left on the site after the event.

Conservation officers will debrief with HUKA on wildlife management strategies for next year's festival, Doyle added.

Meanwhile, in Whistler, a group of curious onlookers gathered on Lorimer Road last week to catch a glimpse of a bear that had climbed up a tree looking for food.

The double-tagged animal was attracted to a cherry tree on municipal land just outside the village and was hazed out of the area by RCMP officers on both Thursday, July 24 and Friday, July 25.

No threat was posed to the public, said Conservation Officer Simon Gravel.

"The bear was not doing anything wrong by feeding on food, so it was mostly an attractant-management issue that came on our radar and was addressed right away by the municipality," he said.

Following the encounter, RMOW workers cut down a small tree and trimmed cherries from a second larger tree that will eventually be removed, Gravel said, who added that managing the crowd, which had formed to sneak a peek or snap a photo of the bear, was just as important for RCMP as removing the natural food source.

"Managing attractants in a place like this is important because (bears) attract tourists who want their picture, and I don't blame them — bears are intriguing creatures — but if they approach too much then there's a potential hazard," he said. "For us, this was also a people-management issue."

Gravel advised the public to stay away from wildlife even if an animal appears to be at a safe distance up a tree, and to report sightings to the Conservation Officer Service as soon as possible at 877-952-7277.

"...Especially if it's in a well-trafficked area," he added. "For us, the village is a no-go area and when we have a bear surrounding it or in it, then we respond right away to ensure the bear moves on and gets out of there.

"(It's important) the bear doesn't get a positive experience with humans around."

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