Last weekend, dozens of community members in Pemberton and Lillooet came out to educate themselves on ways to take action for the threatened grizzly bears of southwest BC. Participants included local ranchers, farmers, hikers, and elected leaders. Together, they learned how local residents can do their part to keep bears and communities safe. These sessions took place just days after Grizzly Bears (Western population) were officially declared a species-at-risk by the federal government.
The beautiful valley bottoms that attract us, are also important grizzly bear corridors and habitat, a mix that increases the odds of human-bear conflict and decreases the odds of coexistence with these iconic animals.
Electric fencing is acknowledged as an easy and cost-effective way to manage bear attractants. Gillian Sanders, of Grizzly Bear Solutions, explained to participants that, “electric fences have become a social norm in some rural areas.” Installing these fences allow us to keep our fruit trees, and their delectable products, as well as prevent the dangerous outcomes of food-conditioned bears and human-bear conflicts.
The workshops were full of practical advice for those wanting to protect their farms and for those of us who venture into bear country for recreation. Sanders educated the audience on signs to look for, such as scat full of poorly digested berries, to know you are in bear country. The audience learned how to tell the difference between a threatened and predatory bear, which each require their own specific human reaction even though most encounters result in the bear moving away.
Defensive or threatened bears should be dealt with in a slow and calm manner, and are the most common type of bear conflicts. Regardless of the circumstances of the encounter, having a easy-to-access canister of bear spray, and knowledge about how to it, is the best defense should an encounter lead to an attack. Bear spray is safe, effective and easy to use - it is now promoted above firearms in grizzly country.
It is all of our responsibility to keep our communities and wildlife safe. Whether you make loud noises while tromping through the woods or put up an electric fence, we can each do our part to support the recovery of the threatened grizzly bears of southwest BC.
Grizzly bears in southwest BC are the front line of local extinction. Already having lost 98% of their habitat in the US, these bears continue to be pushed farther north. Last fall, BC’s Auditor General released a critical report explaining the dangerous gaps in management of grizzly bears in BC. Conflict prevention is one of the four major areas that are identified to manage the threats posed these threatened grizzly bears. By protecting grizzlies, we are protecting healthy wilderness that is necessary for humans and wildlife to thrive.
Tori Ball, Terrestrial Campaigner, CPAWS-BC
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