VILLAGE RESIDENTS REQUEST INCREASED BEAR SAFETY
Recent bear activity and requests from local residents in Sun Peaks prompted TNRD WildSafeBC community co-ordinator Mandy Ross to submit a proposal to the municipality to become a certified Bear Smart Community. Currently only seven B.C. communities have completed the certification process including Kamloops and Whistler.
Ross has worked in the village over the past two years and has heard many requests for more action related to bear safety and education. According to Ross, many residents’ concern grew after one bear was destroyed in August 2015 after being attracted into the village by Mountain Ash trees and tourists were getting too close.
Two other bears were destroyed in Sun Peaks’ village this fall, bringing the total to three bears in two years.
“It seems that currently the biggest issue is getting people to stay far away from the bears,” said Ross. “I know they are nice to see and people want a photo, but we have to remind everyone that getting to close to the bears will change their behaviour and ultimately result in someone getting hurt.”
Last week the municipality highly recommended to all property stratas and homeowners to remove bear attractants, such as Mountain Ash and berry trees.
Ross said the official certification will help protect both the bears and the community, as every year in B.C. hundreds of bears are destroyed as a result of conflicts with humans. In rare cases, people are injured or killed in these encounters.
“The certification will open up dialogue between community leaders and residents and also with WildSafeBC and with the conservation officers too, to make sure that all the best practices are being followed,” said Ross. “Things like recommendations for removing fruit trees— that could have a little bit more enforcement behind it potentially or just more buy-in from the community.”
She cited tourists as another big factor in Sun Peaks and has recommended more signage around the village and for at least one vendor to sell bear spray. Ross said she also plans to get in touch with tour bus companies to ask them to speak with tourists before they arrive in the village.
Another main concern of Ross’s is for seasonal staff to be educated to properly inform tourists about bears in the area.
“I’d like to get some training going with them just so they’re more comfortable in what they’re telling people,” she said.
As with many communities in B.C., garbage is also an issue. Ross has had reports of seasonal staff without vehicles unable to transport their garbage properly to the Waste Transfer Station, as well as of bears climbing onto balconies to access stored garbage.
Ross said it’s helpful for people to report wildlife sightings to their website’s Wildlife Alert Reporting Program at wildsafebc.com/warf.
“People can check it before they head out on the trails, just to know what’s happening.”
Ross was in the village over the weekend, handing out additional educational brochures, installing signs in areas with recent bear activity and meeting with municipal officials to begin the certification process, which includes setting up a small committee.
As Sun Peaks has already taken many steps to reduce bear conflict in the area, Ross said the certification process won’t be difficult.
Those seeking more information can go to wildsafebc.com or to https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/human-wildlife-conflict/staying-safe-around-wildlife/bears/bear-smart.