Getting BEAR SMART is a shared responsibility

Education

is the Key to Success

Raising awareness and changing people’s behaviour is a fundamental part of keeping people and bears safe in your community. Becoming Bear Smart requires that all members of a community will likely have to behave differently than they have been. Education is an important part of this evolution.

For everyone to secure and dispose of their garbage in a bear-proof manner, for instance, individuals must understand how to do it, what the benefits are to themselves and their ursine (and human) neighbours, and what the consequences are if they don’t. Which is where the education comes in.

The primary objectives of the education program should be to:

  1. Develop a greater public understanding of bear ecology and behaviour.
  2. Increase support from local residents for bear-proofing the community.
  3. Promote strategies for people in bear habitat to reduce the likelihood of human-bear conflict.
  4. Recommend actions to take during a bear encounter.
  5. Encourage tolerance towards the presence and natural behaviours of bears in or near the community.

For more information, have a look at section 8 of B.C.’s Bear Smart Community Program – Background Report.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

If you want to move people, it has to be toward a vision that’s positive for them, that taps important values, that gets them something they desire, and it has to be presented in a compelling way that they feel inspired to follow. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Like any successful program or project, a detailed plan should be developed to guide your activities. Your plan should include a mission statement, specific goals and objectives, and details on who your target audience is, what the best messages are, what educational activities and communication vehicles will be most effective, how much they will cost, who will pay for them, and who/how they will be implemented over what time period.

It’s also important to remember that education is an ongoing activity that will require human and financial resources over the long term. It’s often easy to develop motivation and support for the first year or two, but in order to be effective, your education program will likely need to continue indefinitely in order to make your bear Smart efforts effective.

Before implementing your own Bear Smart education program, identify what, if any, programs already exist in your community. It’s also worth working with other groups who already are experts in raising awareness about and changing human behaviours related to bears and human-bear conflicts. Then you can decide what programs would complement those already in existence. See our Resources section for books, videos, reports and more.

There are several groups already delivering Bear Smart-type programs in North America. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Get as much assistance as you can. There’s no shame in using the same ideas or pamphlets as another group. GBS, for instance, will share all of our programs and materials with other groups. You can download most of our materials from this website and modify them, if necessary, to suit your needs.

For more information, have a look at section 8 of B.C.’s Bear Smart Community Program – Background Report.

Community-based social marketing

A study by federal, state and university researchers in Colorado has found education is not all that effective. A percentage of the population will ignore public-service ads, verbal warnings and even tickets for violations such as leaving out trash. – Stewart Breck, Federal carnivore ecologist in Ft. Collins, CO.

Numerous studies suggest that education alone does not alter human behaviour. Conventional marketing, which often relies heavily on media advertising, can be effective in creating public awareness and understanding of issues, but is limited in its ability to foster behaviour change.

Community-based social marketing, on the other hand, is based upon research that demonstrates that behaviour change is most effectively achieved through initiatives delivered at the community level that focus on removing barriers to an activity while simultaneously enhancing the activity’s benefits. To be effective, programs must be carried out at the community level and involve direct contact with people.

Learn more about the tools of community-based social marketing in order to effectively foster lasting Bear Smart behaviour.

Other Resources

Book: Communications Skills for Conservation Professionals by Susan K. Jacobson.