Bear destroyed after multiple reports 

Communication lacking between COS, stakeholders

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Another Whistler bear is dead due to human conflict.

The bear was destroyed on Oct. 12 after wandering into the village.

The bear was observed to be following people in the village when RCMP and COS officers arrived, and did not respond when approached, according to a COS report to the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) about the incident.

Four different reports were made in regard to the bear, which was eventually destroyed due to concerns for public safety.

Details around the incident were scarce as of Pique's press time, other than that the bear was deemed a "candidate for destruction" based on its behaviour and history of conflict.

Requests for more information were not immediately returned.

The COS has been short staffed in the region as of late due to injuries and transfers, said Inspector Murray Smith.

"This happens all over an organization. You just need to kind of plug and play with some other parts sometimes, and that's what we're doing," Smith said, noting that officers have been brought in from other areas to help out.

"We've got some circumstances that just happen in any work unit, and that are uncontrollable, but nothing is out of the ordinary and nothing is sinister in nature I guess.

"We're trying. It's a big job, and staff work really hard and they're very dedicated, but there are times when it's challenging."

In an email, a spokesperson for the RMOW said it's continuing to work with the COS to ensure regular communication.

An update to the human-bear conflict management plan will be presented at the Nov. 1 council meeting.

But the lack of communication stretches back months, said Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the Get Bear Smart Society (GBS).

"I am no longer getting reports from the COS. Not at all," Dolson said, when asked for a general update on Whistler's bears earlier this week.

"I mean like not at all. So I can't even answer that question. It's very concerning for me that I can't even answer that question."

Dolson said she typically gets a monthly report with an Excel spreadsheet showing all the latest bear stats, but hasn't had one since May.

After learning of the bear destroyed on Oct. 12, Dolson said she couldn't find the words to express her disappointment with the COS.

"Our partnership is broken. They have had several months to improve communications and repair their relationship with GBS with no attempts on their end," Dolson wrote in an email.

"I don't know how to make this work anymore. COS communications with other stakeholders are minimal at best."

There is an MOU in place that states that the Get Bear Smart Society must be advised within 24 hours of any bear that is killed, Dolson said, but no such notice came after the Oct. 12 incident.

"COS did not attend the last Whistler Bear Advisory Group meeting in October, and did not attend the Whistler Wildlife Protection Group meeting, even though all other invited stakeholders attended including the mayor, other representatives from the RMOW, and the RCMP," Dolson wrote.

"The COS's lack of communications is disrespectful and completely unhelpful to those of us working hard to protect our bears and minimize conflicts. We are operating without the necessary information — where the conflicts are and what type of conflicts are occurring.

"How do you run appropriate educational campaigns when you don't know what's going on?"

From April to October 24, there were 223 calls to COS generated in Whistler, to which officers attended 46 times.

Six bears were destroyed in that time, while 11 bears were hazed and two cubs were sent to rehabilitation.

GETTING THE WORD OUT

With new workers arriving in Whistler every season, the Get Bear Smart Society has its work cut out for it in getting its message across, but social media — and easily shareable infographics and videos — goes a long way, Dolson said.

"It gives us a greater reach, so it's not just me perhaps making a presentation to one group, it's people sharing with their friends and their friends sharing with their friends," said added.

"The whole goal is to expand the audience and the messaging."

This year's crop of posters and infographics take a simple approach to the message, each focusing on a different aspect of conflict management (such as what to do if a bear is too close to your home, or if you encounter a bear in the woods).

The campaign was made possible by donations from the Whistler Blackcomb Enviro Fund ($7,500) and Community Foundation of Whistler ($25,475).

"There's several different messages and different demographics we're targeting," Dolson said.

"The video that we've put together, the Mad Bear Skillz, (is) targeted to new workers to town, and so we're hoping to get that out through social media but also through some of the programs that are being run."

The video can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/GetBearSmartTV.

More tips are available online at www.bearsmart.com.

Restaurants hoping to get Bear Smart certification can now do so online. Palmer's Gallery and Grill at the Whistler Golf Club is the first local restaurant to complete the program online.

Duncan Savage, food and beverage manager for the Whistler Golf Club, said 70 per cent of the restaurant's staff had to complete a 15-minute online course to earn the certification.

"I would highly recommend other restaurants participate in the program. It is relatively easy for both the leadership and service team to execute," Savage wrote in an email.

"It reflects a commitment to Whistler and all its inhabitants. Many staff working in Whistler have come from abroad and don't understand the process in protecting bears and it is just a good reminder for others that it is everyone's job to keep Whistler the way it's meant to be."

Restaurants interested in taking the Bear Smart training should contact the municipality.

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