My goal as a WildSafeBC Community Coordinator is to create awareness and ultimately prevent human-wildlife conflict throughout Elk Valley and South Country communities. I Endeavor to do this using innovation, education and cooperation. The majority of human-wildlife conflict in BC is preventable. Remove the food, eliminate the conflict. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
All it takes is one residence with garbage outside, unmanaged fruit trees or other wildlife attractants to kick off the cycle of wildlife learning to rely on human food to survive which eventually can result in a threat to human safety. How do we create widespread, community-level change that is crucial to reducing human-wildlife conflict in the long term? We need everyone on board.
Whether I am at a community event, presenting to elementary schools (more than 1200 students from kindergarten to grade 6 this year), talking to homeowners, passers-by when I am putting up “Bear in Area” signs, writing weekly columns for local papers, talking to local radio stations, collaborating with district Council and staff, my end goal is to keep the conversation around human-wildlife conflict at the forefront of people’s minds.
When these conversations take on a life of their own, at home, in neighborhoods, local cafes, on social media and at City Hall, it inspires real behavioural change. Garbage is cleaned up, forgotten fruit trees get picked, bear resistant dumpsters or retrofitted dumpsters pop up, kids get involved and neighbors work together.
This was my 11th year delivering the program and it has been by far the most difficult. A high bear population due to productive berry crops the last few years, an early spring, a hot dry summer and a berry crop failure caused a lack of natural food for bears and resulted in human-bear conflict and high bear mortality. Add to that, development, logging and an increase in trail and backcountry use. As the Elk Valley and South Country continue to grow and develop so will the need to continue educational efforts. There will always be new bears and new people.
The WildSafeBC program will be going into hibernation until the spring. Thank you to everyone who has helped create awareness, complied with bylaws, bear-proofed their property and helped others do the same. Together we can make a difference, one paw print, one garbage can at a time.