Elk Valley communities have taken a big step forward and have been setting a precedent for other mountain communities when it comes to reducing human/wildlife conflict. The residential certified bear resistant carts in Sparwood, the gravity locking carts and communal bear resistant dumpsters in Fernie and bear resistant carts available for Elkford residents have reduced the amount of wind strewn litter and garbage accessible to wildlife and enabled residents to manage household garbage responsibly. There is no curbside garbage collection in the South Country where residents keep garbage indoors until they take it to the transfer station.
Overall, the number of Problem Wildlife Occurrence Reports (PWOR’s) citing bears accessing garbage has been lower in residential areas the last few years and wildlife destroyed due to concerns for human safety in the Elk Valley and South Country has decreased considerably. Human caused mortality has gone from: 33 black bears, 1 grizzly bear and 1 cougar destroyed in 2015, 5 black bears in 2016, 2 grizzly bears destroyed by residents in defence of property, 2 cougars, 5 black bears and 1 grizzly bear destroyed in 2017, 1 injured black bear destroyed for humane reasons, 1 cougar, 1 grizzly bear and 1 black bear destroyed to date in 2018. This decrease in human caused wildlife mortality can be attributed to increased awareness regarding the management of wildlife attractants, less garbage accessible to wildlife with upgraded garbage collection systems in communities and a good berry crop.
There has been an increase in human/wildlife conflict in recreational areas. A child was attacked by a cougar while out on a family fishing trip and there were many reports of trail users getting bluff charged by black and grizzly bears and moose on Elk Valley trails. An increase in trail and backcountry use, development, logging, more highway traffic and more people in wildlife habitat have all contributed to more human/wildlife encounters in the backcountry.
The South Country had a high level of grizzly bear activity between May and October which can be attributed to a number of factors including but not limited to: a cold spring pushing bears into valley bottoms to look for emerging greenery, hot dry weather and smoke, a poor huckleberry crop at higher elevations and grizzly bears being drawn into valley bottoms accessing fruit trees, Saskatoon berries and livestock on their way to feed on the spawning Kokanee salmon. To date this year one grizzly has been destroyed in Jaffray.
Thanks to ongoing support and valuable community partnerships, the WildSafeBC Program was well received. The demand continues to increase throughout Elk Valley and South Country communities and is indicative of the program’s success. The Junior Ranger program was delivered to 540 pre-school and school aged children, over 250 adults received wildlife awareness and bear spray training , 750 contacts were made at community events, 70 000 people reached through local media and 38 000 reached through social media. Finally, thank you to everyone who has been a good neighbour by keeping garbage inaccessible to wildlife between collection days, cleaning up their fruit trees and helping their neighbours do the same. Bears and other wildlife have huge home ranges, will travel great distances for food and don’t recognize political boundaries. This collective effort has resulted in cleaner and safer communities for people and wildlife and a reduction in human caused wildlife mortality. The WildSafeBC Program will be going into hibernation until May 2019.