The Get Bear Smart Society held an emergency board-of-directors meeting on Monday, Aug. 11 to discuss the increasing number of human-bear conflicts that have led to eight bears being destroyed so far this year.
"There was a lot discussed and we had ideas ranging from enforcement options to various bear management techniques, habitat enhancements and educational initiatives," said Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the society.
She said ultimately what came out of the meeting is that people involved with bear conservation are at their wits end with the current state of things.
"There is one thing we can all agree on and that is that once a bear is food- conditioned, so he is eating garbage or other human food sources, the range of options in dealing with that situation is extremely limited," she said.
"We don't have all the answers, if we did, we maybe wouldn't have a problem."
Dolson said in addition to the eight bears that have been destroyed, three more bears died as a result of motor vehicle accidents.
Typically, approximately seven bears are destroyed per year — in total. Last year, there were two.
A contributing factor this year is the lack of natural food sources for the bears. The dry, hot weather this summer meant blackberries and huckleberries dried up early at lower elevations, making the animals hungrier, and more determined.
"During plentiful food years, people can get away with not being as vigilant, but not right now," she said.
Dolson estimates there are 50-plus bears remaining in the Whistler area.
She hopes the bears will go up to higher elevations soon, to access more plentiful berries, but fears things in Whistler might get worse before they get better.
"The problem is that bears have been getting such high food rewards in the valley, some of those bears that have a different feeding strategy might not even go up," she said.
Fall is usually the highest human-bear conflict period as bears go into hyper feeding mode before hibernation.
Dolson said she hopes a solution will come out of the Aug. 13 Whistler Bear Working Group meeting, which brings together representatives of her society, the municipality, the Conservation Officer Service (COS) and other local stakeholders.
For more information on what you can do to help the bears, visit the Get Bear Smart Society online at www.bearsmart.com, or at its Facebook page (Bear Smart) or its YouTube channel, Get Bear Smart.
Report wildlife sightings at 1-877-952-7277.
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