A bear aware season in review 

Mensch looks at making Whistler a certified ‘Bear Smart community

As early as next spring, Whistler hopes to become one of the first communities in British Columbia to be certified “Bear Smart”.

Elena Mensch, local Bear Aware program delivery specialist, is spearheading the application process, which would dub the resort town a leader in bear safe community management.

“Being a Bear Smart certified community means that you have to have a very good waste management system in place, you have to have a strong wildlife bylaw system in place,” said Mensch.

“We are working hard on both of them,” she added.

The Bear Smart certification program was launched by the B.C. Ministry of Environment and is the first program of its kind in North America. While no communities in the province have yet been awarded certification, the City of Kamloops has submitted an application that is still being processed.

The program is based on six criteria that communities must meet to be recognized as Bear Smart.

According to Mensch, the main benefit from certification would be province-wide recognition of Whistler’s exceptional bear management. Certification could also open up additional funding for education and waste management.

Mensch said a workshop with council has been planned for early December to further discuss the issue.

Whistler’s look into Bear Smart certification comes at a time when the area’s large black bear population has recently raised a slew of conflict management issues. A total of 20 bears have been killed this year following human/bear interactions, causing the community to take a closer look at how waste should be managed and whether conflict bear cubs should be destroyed.

Specifically, the controversial shooting of a conflict cub in July led the B.C. Ministry of Environment to clarify its policy that conflict cubs should be sent to a rehab facility instead of being destroyed.

And the Get Bear Smart Society, led by wildlife activist Sylvia Dolson, organized a public forum this summer to brainstorm ways to better manage garbage.

Mensch said a problem with bear management in Whistler is people are becoming reluctant to report bears to Conservation Officers for fear the bears will automatically be destroyed. She stressed that reporting bears is important to prevent future conflicts. Officers are currently working on discouraging bears from foraging through garbage through hazing, and this technique requires constantly vigilance of bear activity.

“Even though bears are not getting into any trouble most of the time, what we want is for them to get called in, so we can try and teach them to get out of the area before there is a human/bear conflict,” said Mensch.

Mensch said there are plans to further expand the Bear Aware program next year, with the Resort Municipality of Whistler co-funding the program and a second Bear Aware program delivery specialist possibly being placed in the Mount Currie-Pemberton area.

To further raise awareness for co-existing with bears, Mensch has organized a Bear Aware week that will run from Nov. 12 to 16. Highlights of the week include a documentary screening by famed bear researcher Charlie Russell at MY Millennium Place on Wednesday, Nov. 14, and a Bear Aware Party at Black’s Pub on Thursday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $23 and $21 respectively.

Naturalist Russell has spent 46 years working with grizzlies in Alberta and Russia, exploring the notion that bears are gentle and safe for humans to live near. His work been featured on both the Discovery Channel and BBC.

Mensch said tickets are selling fast for both events, and she expects they will eventually sell out.

The Whistler Public Library will also be putting on a special bear display throughout the week.

For more information on Bear Aware Week, contact Mensch at 604-935-8375 or emensch@bcccorps.com .


Bear Aware families win tickets

The Whistler Bear Aware Program would like to congratulate this week’s prize draw winners of the Residential Challenge: The Charnell Family of Group 6 and Holmstin Family of Group 4, of tickets to the Bear Aware Party on Nov. 15. The leading Whistler neighbourhoods of the residential challenge are Groups 3 and 4. To find out which of the nine groups you live in, look at the first number of your street address.

The Residential Challenge will continue until December. Join in and bear proof your home by picking up a checklist at IGA, Nesters, Creekside Market, or The Village Grocery Store, and simply follow the instructions.

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