Bear complaints pouring in 

RCMP using non-lethal management techniques, but urge public cooperation

The bears are awake and the RCMP and municipal bylaw officers already have their hands full with complaints. It started slowly, but in the past week, they have been fielding between three and four calls a day.

"It is bear season out there," said Staff Sergeant Hilton Haider of the Whistler RCMP. "They are foraging for their natural foods but are also being attracted to human foods."

RCMP members have already had to break out their non-lethal bear management kits, using noise makers, paint pellets and rubber bullets to "haze" the young bears that have been getting into backyards and onto balconies looking for garbage and bird feeders.

Last year the RCMP and conservation officers only killed one problem bear in the valley, which was a significant improvement over the previous year’s tally of 18. The bear management kits, new municipal bylaws and policies, and the public awareness campaigns were credited for the reduction in kills, which at one point averaged about 20 bears a year.

Keeping the number of kills down will require everyone to co-operate with the programs, but the regular turnover of staff and residents in the valley makes it difficult to get the message out.

"We’ve come so far and done so well, it’s a shame we have to deal with incidents like today, where residents were attracting a yearling with a bird feeder," says Haider. "They were new residents, and didn’t know about the bylaw."

Officers eventually had to shoot the bear with a rubber bullet to get it to move on.

The RCMP are asking people to co-operate with the municipal bylaws regarding the handling of garbage and the bear proofing of homes and businesses. Although most offenders receive warnings for first-time offences, bylaw officers can fine anyone up to $2,000 plus the cost of prosecution for failing to observe the bylaws, imprison offenders for a period not exceeding six months, or both.

• Every owner or occupant has to deposit garbage from their dwelling in a commercial bear-proof garbage container located within their strata, or deliver the garbage to one of two municipal compactor sites, in Function Junction and Nesters.

• Every outdoor container or receptacle used for waste that could attract dangerous wildlife (bears, coyotes, cougars, wolves) has to be wildlife resistant.

• Feeding dangerous wildlife and depositing or storing any domestic garbage, food waste or other edible waste that could attract dangerous wildlife is prohibited.

• Bird feeders must be suspended on a cable or other device so they are inaccessible to dangerous wildlife.

• No person shall throw, place or pile any domestic garbage or waste product on the highway, private or municipal property.

"Whistler is only one of two communities in the province to qualify for the Bear Smart award, and we are way ahead other communities in the province in non-lethal bear management," says Haider. "We proved that last year. We need the public to co-operate to keep it that way."

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