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Jeanie and her cub, Jeanette in Whistler

RIP Jeanie 1990-2011

Do it for Jeanie. Keep your home bear safe.

Jeanie was a resident of Whistler Mountain for about 20 years. She became the icon for the resort, as local residents and school children followed her life story.

She was an extraordinary black bear who left a paw-print on the souls of all who encountered her. Jeanie will be forever remembered as an ambassador for her kind. In her willingness to accept the presence of humans, she allowed Whistlerites and international visitors a glimpse into her world. Being very tolerant of observers, she also became the star of the bear viewing tours.

Thanks to Jeanie, we now have a richer understanding of bears, their strengths and weaknesses, their individuality and the depth of mother-love. She showed us that bears have unique emotions, quirks and personalities, and that perhaps we are more similar to bears than we imagined. Jeanie brought joy to all who were privileged to spend time in her company. She will be truly missed.

Jeanie was killed on October 20th, 2011 as a result of preventable conflict with people. Her daughter, Jeanette, spent the winter at Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley. She was released to the wilds of the Elaho in June. Watch the video.

Jeanie’s life story, as well as the story of other Whistler bears, and their strategies for survival, are very important in telling the story for future bear conservation.

Whistler has unique problems because of the unique relationships that exist between people and bears. Whistlerites are very tolerant of their ursine neighbours.

Jeanie and other bears have faced many changes over the years because their environment has changed dramatically as a result of increased development and recreational activities. Everything has been built gradually up around them. For many years, Jeanie coped reasonably well. Change picked up pace with more ATV’s, Hummers, construction, and human disturbance. Less berries in 2011 and more competition for berry patches in the ski area which is where Jeanie’s home range was, likely drove her to seek food in peopled areas and restaurants in particular.

Jeanie and her cubs often struggled when food was not at its peak. She got used to having access to high quality concentrations of food in her home range. As those foods became less abundant, she began venturing into the main Village with her cubs in tow. This area has been designated as a No-Go Zone for bears – meaning that bears are actively deterred from the area with non-lethal management tools. Unfortunately, Jeanie often found access to garbage in the Village and so she returned more and more often.

The solution is simple: bear-proof the waste system and remove other bear foods like landscaped berry bushes. If there is no food available, bears will not continue to frequent the area. While the solution is perhaps simple, it is not that easy to implement.

We still have many issues to resolve in the community, but we are generating some unique data on adaptive behaviors in black bears. We are very hopeful that this research holds the answers or at least points us in the right direction to a better coexistence.

Meet more Whistler bears in: A Whistler Bear Story. Click here to learn more about the book.