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Caught in the act!

Clever bears learning garbage tricks
Max (aka Slip), a three-and-a-half-year-old male black bear, pulls a bag of cans from an overflowing sidewalk recycling bin. After numerous attempts and many rewards, bears can now access these initially bear-proof bins by knocking them off their concrete pad (bins should be bolted securely to ground) and popping open the back or front lid, by learning to open the front latch, and by sticking their forepaws into the recycling opening when cans are overflowing.

Special to Pique Newsmagazine

Story and photos by Michael Allen

The May-June spring bear count has identified a minimum of 38 different black bears in Whistler Valley, golf courses, and lower mountain slopes. A slow rate of spring snow melt is still keeping bears lower than usual. Four bear families (five cubs) have been identified so far and for the first time since 1996, a mother with three cubs has been located on Whistler Mountain. Expect to see bears in pairs as the breeding season approaches in late May through late July.

Max (aka Slip), a radio-collared 3.5-year-old male black bear was born in Jan 2003 to Marisa, a resident female on Blackcomb Mtn. Subadult males typically get forced from their natal range after 17-19 months so the mother avoids future inbreeding and aggression from her son. 1.5 to 3-year-old males end up in Whistler Valley because they have less frequent encounters with larger males and access to natural and unnatural food sources. Human foods are destroying the natural behavior of young bears in Whistler. If you see radio-collared or tagged bears near people in the valley please call 905-BEAR (2327) so that research personnel can deter the bear from unnatural foods and behaviors.  

Juniper, the 2-year-old daughter of Jeanie, resident female on Whistler Mtn. stands high up in a western hemlock along Ftitzsimmons Creek. Unlike sons, Juniper remains in portions of Jeanie's 40-km2 home range. Because Jeanie brought her son, Jack and Juniper into the valley during the 2004 berry crop shortage, Juniper is now aware of supplemental sources of unnatural foods. Her survival depends upon our willingness to keep Whistler bear proof and attractants to a minimum. Village restaurants, businesses, hotels, golf courses, and residents should always secure garbage and recycling and never overflow bins. Juniper's brother Jack (aka Jay) was found dead after being relocated from heavy garbage feeding in Whistler.

Please report bear families to me at 604-902-1660 or e-mail