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Letter to the editor

Support for Sea-to-Sky bear education appreciated The year 2001 marks the eighth year (1994-2001) of black bear field research and the seventh year (1995-2001) of community bear education-outreach efforts in Whistler.

Support for Sea-to-Sky bear education appreciated

The year 2001 marks the eighth year (1994-2001) of black bear field research and the seventh year (1995-2001) of community bear education-outreach efforts in Whistler. The purpose of the Whistler Black Bear Project is to learn the behavioral, biological, and ecological habits of a rapidly changing bear population and to communicate this life history information to residents and visitors throughout the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.

The goal for bear education is to increase understanding and toleration of natural bear activities throughout human habitation. The 2001 bear education-outreach efforts have increased dramatically, both locally and regionally. I would like to extend special thanks to the numerous people and organizations for their interest and support:

Bob and Kathy Barnett at Pique Newsmagazine have published over 70 Bear Update columns that have been the stepping-stone to revealing the seasonal activities of local bears to local people.

The Fairmont-Chateau boosted a great start to the second year of the Black Bear Life History Slide Series. The monthly slide series is made possible by the efforts and support of Jennifer Stitt and Sonya Hwang in the Fairmont-Chateau’s public relations department.

The first two slide presentations together drew an audience of 142 people and prompted great discussions. The slide series have also been expanded to Squamish courtesy of Maureen Painter at the Squamish Public Library and the series is currently proposed for North and West Vancouver.

Brian Barnett at the Resort Municipality of Whistler sponsored, for the third year, the spring Whistler Children’s Bear Awareness Program where over 500 children are spoken to directly about bears.

This program is vital to children in schools and communities that live in bear habitat and encounter bears daily. To date (1997-2001) the classroom program has reached over 3,500 students. Classroom bear awareness not only refreshes seasonal bear information in the minds of students, guiding safe reactions to bear encounters, but also stimulates long-term interest and provides a foundation for specialized programs such as the new Black Bear Field Ecology Youth Camp offered by Whistler Parks and Recreation this fall.

Field trips for elementary school classes to bear dens and berry-feeding bears were made possible by Canadian Snowmobile Adventures Ltd. in 1999 and by volunteer parent drivers in 2000, igniting an interest in field trip programs for schools this fall. Whistler-Blackcomb ski area’s bear viewing program enters it’s second season after a successful first year (2000) with over 300 people having been guided to view and experience the lives of ski area black bears.

This eco-tourism initiative is considered to be one of the most effective efforts of black bear education.

On Sunday, June 3, a very successful open house promoting Sea-to-Sky Black Bear Awareness was held at the Lynn Canyon Ecology Center and sponsored by the B.E.A.R.S Network (North Shore Bear Education Resource Society, District of North Vancouver Parks, and BC Environment, Lands, and Parks). A large, detailed display of Whistler bear research and education including three bear slide presentations drew a crowd of over 2,000 people. From 1995-2001, over 30,000 people in the Sea-to Sky Corridor including Greater Vancouver have received information directly, on Whistler black bear behavior, biology, and ecology.

It is clear that with Whistler’s unique ecosystem of black bears and their adaptive characteristics, current education and management (bear-proof containment) programs have the roots to grow into comprehensive outreach programs, showcasing the successful co-existence between people and black bears in a world class resort.

Michael Allen

Black Bear Researcher

Whistler Black Bear Project

Paradise Valley, B.C.