Over 700 kids learn about wildlife safety and 400 adults take part in bear spray workshops this year

Ongoing support from sponsors, collaboration with community groups, social and local media have enabled WildSafeBC to reach a broad range of residents and visitors.  More than 700 children participated in the WildSafeBC Ranger Program, 400 adults attended thirteen wildlife awareness and safe use of bear spray workshops and over 500 contacts were made at community events.  WildSafeBC and the Conservation Officer Service assessed over 600 properties and educated residents about managing garbage and fruit trees in rural areas and communities.  The WildSafeBC program will be going into hibernation until May.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us keep communities safe and wildlife wild.

Island Lake Lodge, one of my favorite classrooms

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Although bear calls are above average this year, bear mortality is showing a decreasing trend

As of October 29, there were just under 230 black and grizzly bear reports to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) this year in Elk Valley and South Country communities.  This is above average since 2015.  The increase in reports can be attributed to a high bear population due to good berry crops and a higher bear birth rate the past few years.  An increase in development, tourism, trail and backcountry use is also a factor and has contributed to an increase in human/bear conflict and bear reports to the COS.

Although the number of bear reports is higher than average, black and grizzly bear mortality has shown a decreasing trend since 2015 when 33 bears were destroyed in the region.  To date, six (two black and four grizzly) food conditioned and habituated bears have been destroyed in 2019.  This decrease in bear mortality can be attributed to availability of natural food, increased awareness and better management of wildlife attractants:  less wind strewn litter and garbage accessible to wildlife with better residential carts and bear resistant commercial bins versus plastic bags on the curb side.  Garbage remains the most reported attractant for all wildlife combined, although residential fruit trees are seldom reported they remain a significant attractant and require better management.

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Thank you for respecting trail closure in James White Park due to Bear Activity

Thursday October 31st.  The trail that goes through a dense wooded area a few hundred metres east of  the tennis courts in James White is closed until further notice due to bear activity.  Thank you for staying out and keeeping dogs under control at all times.  Be prepared and expect to encounter bears anytime.  Bears also reported on 4th avenue, throughout James White Park, West Fernie, Ridgemont,Old Stumpy trail and by IDES and Fernie Secondary Schools.  As long as garbage, fruit, bird seed etc.. is accessible, bears will not go into hibernation.  Bear proof your property so bears can move on.

park closure

Kindergarten students had a bear encounter on a Fernie Trail. Good thing they had learned what to do when you see a bear!

It is always a pleasure to work with Kindergarten classes.   The kids all love the role play  what to do if you see a bear!

“I wanted to pass on that while my class was out for our outdoor Monday afternoon we came across a black bear up Old Stumpy. The kids did an AMAZING job staying calm, with the group and making noise – everything you had taught them! Thank again for your amazing program. We were able to put some of it into practice today!”

IDES k role play Leah Spergel

Kindergarten students at IDES learning how to respond to bear encounters.  Photo by Leah Spergel

Bear reported accessing unsecured attractants (garbage and compost) by IDES Elementary and Fernie Secondary Schools this morning

Bears have also been reported all along 4th avenue in Fernie.  As long as food (garbage, apples, compost) is available, bears will stay in town and not go into hibernation.  Lock up garbage and bear proof your property, especially if you live by a school or a park and bears will move on.

Hibernation is a way for bears to conserve energy in the winter when food is in low supply.  During a period called hyperphagia, bears prepare for hibernation by eating three times as much in the fall as they do in the summer. In the fall, bears need up to 20,000 calories per day (about 300 apples) to gain enough weight to get through the winter. In some areas, food-conditioned bears that are used to accessing human food, such as garbage, may not hibernate at all.   Hibernation is an important survival strategy for bears in regions such as British Columbia where their main foods – green vegetation, berries, salmon and insects – are not available in winter.

Thank you for helping keep people safe and bears wild.

For more information on bear-proofing your property go to www.wildsafebc.combear sniffing garbage can

Photo courtesy of Louise Williams

Bear reports in Fernie well above average the last three years.

As of October 15, there were 67 black bear and 19 grizzly bear reports this year in Fernie.  This is above the average number of 40 black bear and 12 grizzly bear reports for the past 3 years.  This increase in reports can be attributed to a high bear population due to good berry crops and a higher bear birth rate the past few years.  An increase in trail and backcountry use is also a factor and has contributed to an increase in human/bear conflict.

Although the number of bear reports is higher than average, black and grizzly bear mortality has shown a decreasing trend since 2015 when 22 bears were destroyed in Fernie.  To date, two (one black and one grizzly) food conditioned and habituated bears have been destroyed to date.  This decrease in bear mortality can be attributed to availability of natural food, increased awareness and better management of wildlife attractants:  less wind strewn litter and garbage accessible to wildlife with gravity locking carts versus plastic bags on the curb side and availability of communal bear resistant dumpsters.

Bear reports in the region tend to have a small peak in the spring followed by another larger peak in the early fall when bears have increased caloric demands in preparation for winter denning. Garbage remains the most reported attractant for all wildlife combined, although residential fruit trees are seldom reported they remain a significant attractant and require better management. Fernie total speies graph

Bear and three cubs in Airport subdivision Fernie

Be prepared and expect to encounter bears wherever you are!  Bear and three cubs in Elkview, bear and 2 cubs on 4th and 5th Avenue and seen by Isabella Dicken Elementary and Fernie Secondary Schools.  Bear sightings also reported in James White Park, Ridgemont, West Fernie and Alpine Trails.  Thanks for keeping garbage locked up and inaccessible to bears and removing anything else that might attract them.  Help you family, friends, visitors and neighbours do the same.

     If you encounter a Bear:

  • STAY CALM
  • DO NOT RUN
  • Let the bear know you are human (arms out to side)
  • Use your voice in a calm, assertive manner.
  • Back away slowly and allow the bear an escape route
  • Never turn your back on wildlife
  • Do not approach or feed wildlife

Bear Carrying Garbage - Kirk FriederichFor more information on bears and safety go to www.wildsafebc.com

Free “How to safely use bear spray workshops” coming up in Elkford and Fernie

WildSafeBC, the Elkford Library and the Fernie Fire Department will be cohosting Wildlife Safety and How to Use Bear Spray Workshops.  Come along and learn how to respond to wildlife encounters and get hands on experience using inert bear spray (like the real thing but without the sting of the pepper).

Elkford: Tuesday September 12th at 4:30 and 6:30pm at the Elkford Library

Fernie: Saturday September 21st at 1pm at the Fernie Fire Hall

The safest wildlife encounter is one prevented.  Having bear spray accessible and knowing how to use it will give you the confidence to do the right thing.   Stay calm, assess the situation, respond accordingly and not give in to the instinct to run, which can trigger the chase instinct.  Bear spray has been determined to be an effective deterrent that can reduce injury and potentially safe your life. Like a seat belt, it should be considered essential safety equipment when travelling in wildlife country.

For more information on wildlife and the free workshops contact fernie@wildsafebc.comBear spray Far staff

Black Bear by Disc Golf Course in Fernie

Thursday August 29.  A large black bear was seen this morning by the disc golf course in James white Park.  It is likely the same bear reported last week by the tennis courts.

If you encounter a Bear:

  • STAY CALM
  • DO NOT RUN
  • Let the bear know you are human (arms out to side)
  • Use your voice in a calm, assertive manner.
  • Back away slowly and allow the bear an escape route
  • Never turn your back on wildlife
  • Do not approach or feed wildlife

For more information on wildlife safety visit www.wildsafebc.com

blackiie 1

Photo courtesy of Marcie Welsh

Feed Families Not Bears

West Fernie residents photographed working together to clean up a fruit tree that is next to the school bus stop and adjacent to a park with a history of attracting bears to the neighborhood.

apple pickThanks for being a good neighbor and not putting your neighborhood in harm’s way by picking all fruit as soon as possible and assisting elderly neighbors who may be unable to pick their fruit. Consider pruning and/or removing fruit trees and replacing them with native non-fruit bearing trees.

Keeping garbage away from bears and cleaning up fruit trees will result in a cleaner and safer community for everyone.