Who We Are
The Get Bear Smart Society is a collaboration of staff, board members, advisors, partners and supporters in British Columbia and across North America. Together, we are helping to create a paradigm shift in people's attitudes toward bears, which will allow bears and people to coexist in harmony.
Staff and Contractors
Get Bear Smart has one full-time staff member, several contractors and more than a few volunteers who work together to implement the organization's strategic plan (i.e. make sure the work gets done).
Sylvia Dolson – Executive Director
Sylvia has been involved with the Get Bear Smart Society since 1996. She has been a key player in establishing Whistler as the province's leading Bear Smart community and plans to expand the Society's many educational and training programs throughout British Columbia and beyond.
In 1997 she became a director and co-chair of Whistler's Black Bear Task Team, which established and implemented a Black Bear Management Plan for the municipality of Whistler, B.C. The plan was developed to minimize human-bear conflicts through effective waste management, extensive educational programs, rigorous enforcement and a non-lethal bear management program.
She was the major catalyst in building partnerships and alliances with key stakeholders, and she currently co-chairs the Whistler Bear Working Group. She has worked diligently to ensure bear-friendly management policies and to bear-proof Whistler's waste management system. She continues to advocate on behalf of bears and acts as the watchdog to ensure policies and management actions reflect the bear's best interests.
As the executive director of GBS, Sylvia is responsible for overseeing day-to-day activities and maintaining the direction of the Society so that its mandate, goals and objectives are realized. She also participates in numerous workshops throughout B.C. as a speaker and provides consultations to other bear aware groups and communities interested in becoming BearSmart.
She has authored many educational materials, including a non-lethal bear management training manual – Responding to Human-Bear Conflicts – that has been used as a reference by police officers and wildlife agencies throughout North America. Her new book A Whistler Bear Story was recently released; and BEAR~OLOGY: Fascinating Bear Facts, Tales & Trivia was released in the spring of 2009.
Sylvia is also a member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) and attends their conferences representing the Society's vision for coexistence.
As a wildlife photographer and freelance writer, Sylvia spends most of her free time in the company of bears, observing and photographing their natural behaviour in the wild.
Although Sylvia's formal education provided her with an Honours Degree in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario, her passion and commitment lie in animal welfare and protection. Her vision is for a greater coexistence — one in which people and bears live in harmony.
Dawn Johnson – Program Coordinator (Bear-proof Waste Management)
Always deeply concerned with and connected to her outdoor environment, Dawn is working with the Get Bear Smart Society to secure garbage and recycling sheds in Whistler, B.C. This will reduce the availability of potential attractants and unnatural food sources for bears in the valley and reduce the number of human-bear conflicts.
Dawn is presently enrolled in the University of Victoria's Restoration of Natural Systems program. She believes that the rehabilitation of the natural environment is a key factor in maintaining healthy animal populations. She hopes to apply her knowledge to help keep Whistler’s bear and other wildlife populations safe for many generations to come.
Originally from 150 Mile House, B.C., Dawn's love of the outdoors was sparked during her childhood years of camping and fishing. Dawn now resides outside of Pemberton, B.C., where she spent the last 10 years working in the tourism sector. She has spent many summers in remote areas of British Columbia operating fishing lodges with her husband, while spending the winters in Pemberton, skiing. Her love of bears comes from her observations and quiet contemplations of these great animals in their natural habitat.
Click on the appropriate links to learn more about Get Bear Smart's board members, advisors, partners and supporters.
Ainslie Willock – President and Director of Outreach
Ainslie's persistent hard work and dedication to animals is surpassed only by her passion as their advocate. She has worked with the Animal Alliance of Canada, Toronto Humane Society, Animal Protection Institute and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Canada).
Ainslie also worked for a number of years as a City Councillor's Assistant, gaining valuable experience of how decisions are made in the political arena. She graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Honours) degree.
She is currently under contract with the Humane Society of the United States, representing the interests of bears, snow geese and furbearers in Canada. She is responsible for creating public pressure and lobbying politicians to stop the spring bear hunt in Ontario; to prohibit the sale and possession of bear gallbladders in Ontario and Quebec; and to secure legislation to protect furbearers in the European Community.
As a member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), Ainslie attends their workshops, provides articles for their newsletter and participated in forming their captive bear release policy.
Having spent time in the company of wild blacks, grizzlies and polar bears, she has been fortunate to experience the true nature of bears.
Wayne McCrory is a professional biologist and ecosystem research expert who specializes in bears. He has worked on numerous government and private bear studies throughout western Canada, including 15 national and provincial parks. He served for three years on the B.C. government's grizzly bear scientific advisory committee, and he was a public advisor on a committee formed by the B.C. Wildlife Branch to draft interim grizzly bear management guidelines for the Kootenay Boundary Land Use Plan.
As one of the original founders of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, Wayne's career as a bear conservationist began with a campaign to protect the Valhalla Range, which was successful in 1983. He went on to spearhead the drive to save the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary (1993) and the White Grizzly (Goat Range) Park (1995). Collectively, these areas represent almost half a million acres of protected habitats for bears in both the Interior and Coastal Temperate Rainforests. Last year, the B.C. government announced protection of 135,000 ha for the Spirit Bear Protection Area, which McCrory spearheaded to protect the coastal rainforest home of the white kermode or spirit bear, grizzly bears and over 60 salmon streams.
McCrory teaches outdoor bear safety courses and guides and advises many film crews for bear documentaries. He also has published numerous reports on bear ecology and conservation, as well as bear hazard studies and conflict management plans in many parks and communities, which help to minimize conflicts between people and bears. He also has carried out environmental impact assessments, including the impacts of clear-cut logging and roads on bears and other wildlife. He has published or co-authored seven scientific papers and over 50 technical reports.
A former B.C. conservation officer for 12 years, Dan gained considerable experience in managing human-bear conflicts. Dan was a member of Whistler's Black Bear Task Team. He has worked in a wide range of environments - from the urban areas of North and West Vancouver to the coastal and rural areas of southwest B.C. - and as a result has gained extensive experience dealing with a wide variety of conflict situations (farming/ranching, urban areas, remote camps) involving both blacks and grizzlies.
His knowledge in all aspects of human-bear conflicts includes educational training (creating Bear Smart communities, bear safety, etc.) and trapping, tranquilizing and relocating bears. Dan is a qualified firearms instructor and has considerable experience conducting training courses and public speaking. In 1999, Dan implemented Canada's first non-lethal bear management program in Whistler.
Dan owns and operates BEAR sCARE, a highly successful company that specializes in training people in the use of non-lethal methods to prevent human-wildlife conflicts. Training courses vary from non-lethal bear management training for law enforcement and wildlife managers to safety-oriented training for those working or recreating in bear country.
Dan is the chief training instructor for the Get Bear Smart Society. Other clients include the RCMP, Resort Municipality of Whistler, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, B.C. Forest Service, Humane Society of the United States, BC Hydro, Telus Mobility, Halliburton Energy Services and Suncor Energy.
Dan worked as a Directed Field Studies Instructor in the Conservation and Enforcement program at the Lethbridge Community College. He was a guest speaker at the 2003 New Jersey Black Bear Conference and testified at the New Jersey State Senate Environmental Commission Hearings regarding human-bear conflicts.
John has been involved in bear research and management since 1972. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Montana in 1980. He is a past president of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) and has served that organization as a Council member, associate editor and newsletter editor.
John worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for over 29 years, including 12 years conducting research on black bears. During his years in the field as a research biologist, John designed and conducted research on black bear ecology in six geographic areas of Idaho and was responsible for capturing over 1,500 black bears and collecting information on their population dynamics, food habits, reproductive biology, denning ecology, movements, habitat use, and mortality factors.
He has published numerous scientific papers on bear ecology and bear rehabilitation methods, and co-authored, with Jeff Rohlman, a book entitled A Shadow in the Forest - Idaho's Black Bear, which was published by the University of Idaho Press in 1994. He also has written numerous popular articles for Idaho Wildlife magazine and appeared in several television documentaries about his work with bears. During the last 15 years of his career with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game,
John supervised the wildlife research program for the state and was the state-wide program manager for black bear, cougar, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats.
John has been involved in rehabilitating and releasing black bears in Idaho, participating in the release of over 200 orphaned black bears over the years. He recently completed a white paper entitled "Orphan Bear Cubs – Rehabilitation and Release Guidelines." He continues to work as a consultant on efforts to release orphan bears back to the wild in the U.S. and other countries, and on human-bear conflict issues in Turkey.
Scientific and Professional Advisors
Get Bear Smart is fortunate to have the support of several advisors who provide a broad range of expertise that helps to maintain and improve the quality of GBS’s programs.
Lynn Rogers — Bear behaviour and ecology
Lynn Rogers is a wildlife research biologist who has been studying black bears and sharing his information with the public for 35 years. Using airplanes, vehicles, and snowshoes, he has radio-tracked over 100 bears in the vast forests of northeast Minnesota, studying some for as long as 22 years.
His unorthodox research techniques have been emulated around the world. Rogers learned that he could form trusting relationships with these intelligent animals, even with mothers with cubs. He began spending 24-hour periods walking and resting with them, detailing their activities, diet, ecology, social organization, and vocalizations. His unique ability to build a trusting relationship with his research bears allows him to radio-collar them without the use of a tranquilizer.
New discoveries continue to be made as Rogers focuses on learning how we can better coexist with bears. Rogers' study is the source of much of the scientific information on black bear behaviour available today. He has written over a hundred scientific articles on black bear behaviour and ecology and has edited numerous scientific articles, books and TV scripts to assure accuracy before they are published or broadcast.
He shares his knowledge through lectures, workshops and museum exhibits, and is a consultant for legislatures, government agencies, and private organizations across the United States. For over three decades, the media has carried his information to millions of people each year, contributing to an improved public attitude toward black bears. Today, people are allowing black bears to repopulate parts of America where bears have not lived for over a century.
Regarded by many as the Jane Goodall of black bears, Rogers has a Ph.D. in ecology and behavioural biology from the University of Minnesota. Awards include the Quality Research Award from the U. S. Forest Service and the Anna M. Jackson Award from the American Society of Mammalogists.
Lori Homstol is a wildlife biologist based in Whistler, BC. She began her career as a volunteer on the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project in Lake Louise, Alberta in 1995 while she was still an undergraduate at the University of Saskatchewan. By 1999, Lori's interests had focused on human-wildlife conflict and she has since been contracted by a number of different agencies. Lori has worked with grizzly bears and black bears in Alberta, British Columbia and Montana, as well as Asian black bears in Japan for the Wind River Bear Institute.
In 2005, Lori was hired to help the BC Ministry of Environment assess the efficacy of non-lethal bear management in Whistler. She is currently completing a Master of Science degree at the University of Alberta. Her thesis is focused on applying theories of how animals learn to make non-lethal management more effective. She has a keen interest in bear behaviour, specifically how it relates to conflict with humans. Her Karelian Bear Dog, Sisko is often by her side contributing to the job at hand.
In addition to working with bears, she has also worked with a number of other wildlife species including small mammals, lynx, cougar, wolverine and wolves. She has also generously volunteered her time on bighorn sheep and mountain goat studies.
Click here to learn more about her research in Whistler.
Benjamin Kilham — Bear behaviour and human-bear conflict
A licensed bear rehabilitator, naturalist and author, Benjamin Kilham raises orphaned black bear cubs and releases them back into the wild.
Rather than sticking the cubs in cages and avoiding contact, Kilham establishes a relationship with them without encouraging dependency. Kilham's role as "mother bear" is not so much to teach the bears the ropes, but to provide the safety of a foster parent to protect them against danger while they find their own way in the world.
His methods are controversial. All conventional theory indicates that these cubs would become habituated to people. As radical as his plan is, he has successfully raised and released two dozen cubs. In the process he has learned much about how bears interact with each other and with humans.
Kilham wrote a book about his experiences. Among the Bears: Raising Orphan Cubs in the Wild is a personal story of the bond between animals and humans. In addition to his latest film from National Geographic Man Among Bears, Kilham has appeared in and taken part in the production of several other documentaries. His presentations have entertained thousands of ursophiles, with Kilham's personal and passionate accounts illuminating the intimate lives of bears.
Carrie Hunt — Bear conflict and bear shepherding
Carrie Hunt is a bear biologist who has worked with government agencies and private groups around the world for over 30 years.
Hunt is known for her pioneering work in the area of human-bear conflict resolution, and in particular for her work on modifying wild bear behaviour through the use of repellents, deterrents and conditioning. She tested the use of the red pepper spray system that today is widely used to deter approaching bears. She also conducted the first investigations of aversively conditioning wild, free-ranging grizzly bears with so-called problem behaviours.
Hunt founded and directs the Wind River Bear Institute (WRBI) and its programs: the Partners-In-Life Program and Wind River Karelian Bear Dogs. Hunt developed the concept of 'bear shepherding' that simultaneously teaches humans to prevent conflicts and teaches so-called 'problem' bears to avoid humans and developed sites.
WRBI was the first group to use aversive conditioning to teach bears by pairing human voices with rubber bullets and barking dogs. These are the same modern training techniques that are used to train dolphins and dogs. WRBI has demonstrated through its work that bears do learn and retain this training.
Hunt also identified and developed the use of, and training methods for, Karelian bear dogs (KBDs) as wildlife service dogs to assist in bear conservation.
WRBI has successfully trained and used KBDs for bear shepherding since 1990.
Evelyn is an experienced graphic designer and illustrator who has won several awards for her work. She has a background in advertising and has taught design and illustration to adults as well as children, but she prefers to teach people about bears.
Her design skills are now regularly employed to create educational material for the Get Bear Smart Society. Evelyn wrote, illustrated and designed the educational activity book, Bear Smart Kids: A Book to Make You Smarter than the Average Bear. She has also produced a large body of fine art in a variety of mediums, depicting images of bears and their natural habitat.
Evelyn has been teaching bear awareness since 1996. She began by giving bear safety workshops in various wilderness camps. She has served as camp bear safety coordinator with several outdoor organizations, including the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
As a founding member and spokesperson of the North Shore Black Bear Task Team in North Vancouver, she was instrumental in the declaration of the first annual Bear Awareness Week in 2000, coordinating the week's activities.
She also helped launch Black Bear Task Team efforts in the Village of Lion's Bay and served as community bear education advisor to several lower mainland and BC initiatives. As a board member for the Society for Bear Protection and Relocation in West Vancouver, she served as spokesperson and director of education.
Evelyn currently lives in the Kootenays, where she worked with city officials to launch Nelson's first annual Bear Smart week in 2003. She is actively involved in Bear Smart education as the chair of the Kootenay Chapter of the Get Bear Smart Society.