Successful Bear Smart Efforts
Several communities across North America have improved the way they co-exist with bears. Believing that success breeds success, and that we can learn from what others have done right, we will be highlighting these "success stories" in this section.
Banff National Park
In the 1970s, the Banff Townsite and the Lake Louise Dump were crawling with bears. Stories abound about bears walking down streets and into restaurants looking for handouts. After a food-conditioned grizzly bear mauled three people near the Town of Banff, Parks Canada decided to clean up its act, drastically reducing bear mortality and virtually eliminating human-bear conflicts. Read more about it on Parks Canada's website.
Canmore, Alberta is located in the Bow Valley, on the eastern edge of Banff National Park. Concerned for the safety of its residents and the local bears, it decided to switch to a bear-proof solid waste management system that has all but eliminated human-bear conflicts in town. Read about Canmore's efforts at Bow Valley WildSmart and about their bear-proof waste managment system.
Whistler, B.C. is a world-class tourism destination 100 kilometres north of Vancouver, and it has done perhaps more than any other community outside of a national park to coexist with more than 100 black bears with which it shares the Whistler Valley. Visit our Bear Smart Whistler section for more information.
Wintergreen Resort, a residential and vacation community nestled against the Blue Ridge Parkway in Nelson County, Virginia is a place where it is sometimes hard to tell where the forest ends and the real estate begins, especially if you are a bear. Prompted by a series of break-ins by bears to resort homes in 2007 and the removal or euthanasia of nine bears over two years, Wintergreen residents decided to take action to make theirs a community where both people and bears could coexist. Read more about Wintergreen's bear smart program.
In November of 2009, Kamloops, British Columbia became the province's first official bear smart community. Among the efforts to reduce bear-human conflicts are education programs targeted at residents to ensure they don't let fruit litter their yard and keep garbage inside; a City bylaw restricting curbside garbage to the same morning as delivery; and strategic land use planning to lessen interaction. For more information, click here.
Elliot Lake, Ontario
The City of Elliot Lake agreed to change its own garbage bylaws, forbidding home- and business owners to put out garbage the night before collection and requiring that at other times it be stored in sheds, garages or closed dumpsters. Elliot Lake is the first community in Ontario with such legislation. Prevention, education and awareness formed the foundation of a similar province-wide program, called Bear Wise, which MNR inaugurated in 2004. The Bear Wise initiative that the Friends of Algoma East administered in Elliot Lake was astoundingly successful. After the municipality trapped 20 live bears and killed three following “nuisance” complaints in 2003, no more traps were needed and no animals were moved or killed in 2004. The number of complaint calls about bears and the use of live traps has remained relatively low in the subsequent years.
Between 1931 and 1959 an average of 48 park visitors were injured by bears and an average of 138 cases of bear-caused property damage were reported each year (see report - figures 6 and 7, respectively). The garbage dumps were closed between 1968 and 1971. In 1970 all garbage cans were made bear-proof. In approximately 1996, the annual average was reduced to less than one bear-inflicted injury and twelve bear-caused property damages.
Statistics show an increasing trend of human complaints/conflicts in Yosemite National Park between 1989 and 1998 (see report - figure 8). From 1998 to 2002 Yosemite experienced a decreasing trend in the number of incidents, corresponding to the effort outlined by the Human-Bear Management Program, which was, in essence, installation of "bear-proof" food storage lockers and the implementation and enforcement of food storage regulations.
In Chimneys, a section of the Great Smoky National Park, the year before bear-proof garbage cans were used, there were 32 instances of nuisance bears having been removed from the park (see report - figure 9). In 1991, after installation of bear-proof garbage cans, there were no bears removed.
In 2002, Juneau, Alaska created several ordinances requiring bear-proof dumpsters that have resulted in fewer conflicts (see report - figure 10).
Nevada (Lake Tahoe Basin)
Complaints concerning bears were unacceptably high through 2000. Public education and bear-proof dumpsters have led to the first decline in complaints (see report - figure 12). One hundred seventy-five complaints per year around the year 2000 were reduced to just over 100 in 2003.
Complaints from New Jersey (data provided by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife) increased sharply from 1995 to 1999 (see report - figure 13). At the end of 1999 or early in 2000 an aversive conditioning program began. In addition, the non-violent program involving educating the public, use of bear-proof garbage receptacles and ordinances was enhanced. The complaints/conflicts decreased from 1999 to 2005.