BearSmart Score Card for Whistler
BearSmart communities are not born, they are made. The Whistler Bear Working Group, on behalf of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, has been working hard to make their community BearSmart*. They have made huge progress over the years, but they still have a little ways to go to achieve an A grade. Let’s see how they’ve done ... just click on each criteria to see the progress and the score.
Prepare a bear hazard assessment
Whistler commissioned registered professional biologist and BearSmart expert Wayne McCrory to conduct a preliminary bear hazard assessment in 2003. Bear hazard assessments are the basis for developing human-bear conflict management plans, which help municipal governments and bear managers mitigate the identified hazards. Click here for more details about Whistler’s bear hazard assessment. Read more about how to conduct a bear hazard assessment.
Prepare a human-bear conflict management plan
Whistler has indeed completed a human-bear conflict management plan and it has been approved by Mayor and Council. Click here for more information on preparing a human-bear conflict management plan, or to read Whistler's plan (Maggie M. Paquet, Biologist, October, 2009).
Revise planning and decision-making documents
In its effort to implement the Human-Bear Conflict Management Plan, Whistler has rewritten many of its planning documents. A Garbage Enclosure Information Package was created to provide guidelines about how to include bear-proof waste management systems in their projects and to make it easier for builders to understand the permitting and development process as it relates to waste management. The recommended plant list for properties going through the rezoning and/or development permit application process was rewritten to discourage the use of bear plants that attract bears. The local Protected Areas Network plan (PAN), which will become part of the Official Community Plan (OCP) once it is adopted in 2011, identifies areas of connectivity that developers are encouraged to avoid or minimally develop.
Furthermore, as the community develops its shared vision and plan for continued success toward Whistler2020 and undergoes the development of a new OCP, principles prioritized in the Human-Bear Conflict Management Plan, general wildlife management, and biodiversity policies that relate to bears and bear habitat are to be included.
While these measures are all worthwhile, many of them are not mandatory or legally binding.
Implement an ongoing education program
The Get Bear Smart Society has been instrumental in delivering a comprehensive education program for residents and visitors for more than 10 years. Bear Aware BC has been running a program in Whistler since 2006 - focusing on the importance of attractant management through a door-to-door campaign and presentations. In 2007, GBS began exploring more effective ways of delivering their education program. Recognizing that campaigns that rely solely on providing information often have little or no effect upon changing human behavior, GBS is in the process of launching a community-based social marketing program. We have conducted a literature review and a focus group to identify the barriers and benefits of Bear Smart behaviours. We have also tested CBSM tools with respect to a door-to-door educational campaign. The next step is to develop and implement a strategy that utilizes these tools. Click here for more information about implementing a Bear Smart education program.
Implement an effective bear-proof waste management system
Whistler’s waste management system is the Achilles’ heel in its aspirations to become a Bear Smart community.
To be fair, Whistler has made significant improvements over the years. The local landfill, which attracted bears by the dozen, was closed in 2007 and garbage is now trucked to a bear-proof transfer station. There is no curb-side pick-up. Instead, two centrally located bear-proof collection centers allow residents to dispose of their waste, and GBS is working with businesses and condominium complexes to bear-proof their waste enclosures.
Unfortunately, bears can still access garbage and other attractants at dozens of locations in Whistler. Nine bears were destroyed and two relocated last year alone. A truly effective bear-proof waste management system is required if Whistler is to reduce the number of dead bears and attain Bear Smart community status. Click here for more information about bear-proofing waste management systems.
Implement "Bear Smart" bylaws
Whistler town council recently passed the “Garbage Disposal and Wildlife Attractants Bylaw No. 1861”. It is now unlawful to store or dispose of garbage in anything except a wildlife-resistant container or a wildlife-proof enclosure. Wildlife attractants such as bird-feeders and fruit trees must be kept inaccessible to bears and other “dangerous wildlife.” Fines for the worst offenders can be as high as $10,000. Read more about why Bear Smart bylaws are important. To get an A grade, Whistler needs to increase its enforcemnet of the bylaw to ensure zero tolerance.
Whistler's tremendous improvements over the last decade, earn it a B+ on its BearSmart Report Card. The biggest reason Whistler doesn't earn an A grade is the need for further improvements to its bear-proof waste management system. Currently, there are few options for those without vehicles to get their trash to the compactor sites. The issue still needs to be resolved. Too many bears continue to have access to human garbage and other attractants, which continues to attract far too many bears to their deaths each year.
The sustainable rate of human-caused black bear mortality in B.C. (as determined by the Ministry of Environment) has been set at eight percent. Bear mortality in Whistler is now more than twice the sustainable rate, not including hunting deaths. This means Whistler has to continue improving its programs. A major source of mortality in recent months has become motor vehicle collisions. In 2010, at least ten bears were struck by vehicles in the Whistler area - seven were confirmed dead; three others managed to leave the scene injured and it's not known whether they died later.
While Whistler has demonstrated its commitment to being a Bear Smart Community by addressing the six program principles, the members of the Bear Working Group realize that this is not the end of the journey, and are taking on a long term commitment to continually address new challenges into the future to ensure that we are bear smart.
* The B.C. Bear Smart Community Program was designed by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. It is a voluntary, preventative conservation measure that encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together. The goal is to address the root causes of bear/human conflicts, thereby reducing the risks to human safety and private property, as well as the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year. Click here to read the Bear Smart Community Background Report.