Getting BEAR SMART is a shared responsibility

What We Do

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Human-bear conflicts can lead to property damage, bear deaths and/or relocations, and in rare cases, human injuries and/or fatalities.

The good news is that almost all human-bear conflicts are preventable by ensuring all homes, neighbourhoods and communities are Bear Smart.

The Get Bear Smart Society (GBS) accomplishes this through four main programs — Bear Smart Education, Non-Lethal Bear Management, Bear Smart Communities, and Bear Smart Whistler.

Bear Smart Education

GBS works hard to educate the general public, non-governmental organizations, government agencies (parks, environment, wildlife) and law enforcement officials (RCMP, municipal bylaw officers, conservation officers) about what they can do to Bear Smart their homes and communities.

The heart of our education program is to educate people who live, work and play in bear country to reduce bear attractants. We maintain perhaps the most comprehensive Bear Smart website on the Internet, which 40,000 people (on average) visit every month.

We distribute educational materials for children, hands-on guidelines for residents and recreationists, and more detailed guides and training resources for policymakers and bear managers. We have also combined learning with fundraising by creating a line of educational merchandise, including books and games. Each year, for instance, we sell 25,000 decks of Bear Smart playing cards, which provide information about how to be Bear Smart while the game’s in progress.

In specific communities, where human-bear conflicts are a problem, we invest in extensive advertising campaigns and provide educational brochures. We also provide local groups with the tools they need to reach the public.

While our efforts to date have proven quite successful, focus groups and surveys indicate that many people who know how to be Bear Smart don’t necessarily behave that way. As a result, we plan to use community-based social marketing tools to more effectively encourage sustainable behaviour change.

For more information, visit our Education section.

Non-lethal Bear Management

AdversionDirectly addressing the root cause of human-bear conflicts, which is usually lack of awareness and poor bear attractant management, is the most effective way to keep bears and people safe. But even under the best circumstances, bears will come into and even hang around communities and other developed areas — campgrounds, work camps, and landfills. In these cases, bear aversion tactics can effectively teach food-conditioned and even habituated bears where they are not welcome without having to kill them.

GBS is perhaps best known for its innovative bear aversion training program, leading the way in developing and improving standards and curriculum, as well as providing training to various police and wildlife agencies. Bear aversion uses negative conditioning to modify undesirable bear behaviour in an attempt to mitigate conflicts with people. Habitat management, birth control and diversionary feeding provide additional options in the non-lethal bear management toolkit.

The non-lethal program is the highlight of our ongoing search for the best bear management practices, providing conservation officers and law enforcement officials with a much-needed alternative to killing bears.

Our Non-lethal Bear Management Program includes:

  • Providing cutting-edge information and training resources, such as Responding to Human Black Bear Conflicts: A Guide to Non-lethal Bear Management Techniques, for use in communities across North America.
  • Actively training conservation officers and law enforcement officials (RCMP or other police agencies, municipal bylaw enforcement officers, conservation officers) how and when to use aversive conditioning and other non-lethal bear management protocols in their communities.
  • Providing training and consulting services for policymakers, bear managers, community leaders and business operators on how to keep their communities safe and conflict bear-free.
  • We have conducted research on the effectiveness of non-lethal bear management tools. (All research is conducted in an ethically and morally responsible manner, minimizing negative impact on wildlife and the environment.)
  • Implementing the effective use of non-lethal bear management practices in and around the resort community of Whistler.

The results of Whistler’s pilot program and research are forming the basis for change in sustainable bear management policy in British Columbia and even nationally.

For more information, visit our Managing Bears section.

Bear Smart Communities

Education is a start, but there is much else a community can — and must — do to become Bear Smart. Bear-proof waste management systems, appropriate municipal bylaws and policies, and collaborative working groups that involve everyone from bylaw enforcement and conservation officers to biologists and municipal officials are essential components of Bear Smart communities.

Building on its educational and training resources, as well as real-world experience making Whistler, B.C. a Bear Smart community, Get Bear Smart helps communities across Canada and the United States become Bear Smart. GBS provides information, training and consultation to various non-government organizations, government agencies, bear managers, and municipal decision makers throughout North America.

For more information, visit our Managing Communities section.

Bear Smart Whistler

Bear Smart Whistler is where the rubber hits the road. Although the work of the Get Bear Smart Society informs and influences bear management practices and policies across North America, we focus much of our time and energy Bear Smarting the resort community of Whistler, B.C., where we are based.

Over the last decade we have worked collaboratively with the RCMP, bear biologists, town officials, provincial conservation officers and bear managers, community and business leaders, waste management service providers, and concerned residents to create a Bear Smart community.

We have invested heavily in public education, conducting extensive advertising campaigns, writing informative columns in community newspapers, and designed and erected interpretive signage. In collaboration with the Whistler’s Bear Advisory Committee, GBS staff and volunteers get out in the community to give public and corporate Bear Smart presentations and train law enforcement officials and bear managers how to use non-lethal bear management options such as aversive conditioning. We also work on waste management issues and bylaw enforcement.

Public support for our program has been overwhelming. While Whistler became an official Bear Smart community in 2011, there is always room for improvement. The work done in Whistler over the years illustrates what can be accomplished by implementing Bear Smart policies and practices — the number of conflict bears that have been killed has been reduced by over 50 per cent over the last decade despite the fact the number of human-bear interactions has increased four-fold.

This makes Whistler a leader in the ongoing attempt to establish a truly Bear Smart community that can act as a model for other communities to follow. Read more here.