Whistler to get new conservation officer 

Province adds 18 seasonal COs to communities

Last summer the province and the Resort Municipality of Whistler agreed to co-fund a year-round Whistler conservation officer for the community, primarily to handle the large number of bear calls using non-lethal Bear Smart techniques.

Previously there were just two COs for the entire corridor, both based 45 minutes down the road in Squamish. As a result, the bulk of bear calls were handled by local RCMP.

The provincial government will go one better this summer by hiring an additional seasonal CO for the Whistler area, one of 18 new COs hired by the Ministry of Environment’s Conservation Officer Service.

"We’re getting a head start on recruiting and training our seasonal COs this year," said Environment Minister Barry Penner. "I’m hopeful we will be able to fill all 18 of these positions."

Contracts for seasonal COs start in May and will run through the late fall. With this schedule the officers will be on the ground during hunting seasons, peak angling seasons, and during periods in spring and fall when the majority of human-wildlife conflicts occur.

Other communities receiving officers include North Vancouver, Port Hardy, Sechelt, Campbell River, Fernie, Vernon, Castlegar, Kelowna, Invermere, Dease Lake, Fort St. John, Burns Lake, Williams Lake, Prince George, Chetwynd and Vanderhoof.

"These deployments are the result of careful evaluation and identification of the ministry’s top (Conservation Officer Service) needs, based on an increased COS presence in communities around the province," said Penner.

The new COs were hired as part of a three year plan, which is currently in its second year. As a result the new Whistler CO will be funded for at least the next two years.

According to a communications spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, the new hires were made based on an informal review of the previous year – number of calls attended, types of disturbances reported, and recommendations by COs already in the field.

The new CO will work with Rob Groeger, the CO hired by the province and the RMOW in 2005. While bears will be the main focus, the new CO will also address other environment industry issues, like water waste, people fishing without a license, etc.

"They’re (the ministry’s) enforcement arm out in the field and the ministry has a wide range of responsibilities for conservation and managing wildlife/human conflicts," said the ministry spokesperson.

The CO for Whistler has not been hired, but the ministry has already started taking applications for seasonal positions.

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