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 are highlighting these “success stories” in this section.
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 50 black bears with which it shares the Whistler Valley. Visit our Bear Smart Whistler section for more information.
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 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.
September 25th, 2010 saw the District of Squamish receive Bear Smart accreditation from the B.C. Ministry of Environment. Squamish was the second community within B.C. to receive such accreditation. This certification was a result of six years of building partnerships and relationships with numerous community stakeholders; it takes an entire community to become Bear Smart and the District of Squamish is very proud to have received the recognition it so deserves. Squamish remains committed to further pursuing Bear Smart criteria with support from the Ministry of Environment and the Conservation Officer Service.
The Village of Naramata is located on the east side of Lake Okanagan, 17 km from Penticton. Due to the high destruction numbers, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen implemented the Bear Aware/Bear Smart program in 2010. This was followed up with Curbside Garbage Bylaws requiring garbage to be stored securely and placed at the curb on the morning of pick-up. The District’s Bear Aware Community Coordinator together with an engaged community and the Conservation Officer Service reduced the number of bears killed from 6 – 7/yr. to almost zero by 2012. In June of 2014, Bear Smart Community Status was awarded to Naramata. Since implementing ‘Bear Smart’ objectives only two unthrifty young bears have been destroyed. For more information click here.
Port Alberni, B.C.
The City of Port Alberni is the 5th community in the Province of BC to be officially designated a ‘Bear Smart Community’ by the Ministry of Environment and Conservation Officer Service. Others include Lion’s Bay, Squamish, Whistler, and Kamloops.The success is the result of outstanding leadership on behalf of the local government, the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, the Conservation Officer Service, the Alberni Valley Bear Smart Committee, Bear Smart BC, local residents, and other stakeholders.
Lions Bay, B.C.
Lions Bay officially became Bear Smart in 2010 as a result of a grass roots initiative by volunteers. Concerned about black bear destructions resulting from an ongoing food attractant problem, residents created a Bear Smart committee with support of Council, Administration and Conservation Officers Service. They create educational programs for schools and residents, as well as assist Council with waste management options and bylaw issues. Today, Lions Bay residents co-exist peacefully with bears and provide them safe passage to move naturally through their area.
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. The Bear Wise initiative that the Friends of Algoma East administered in Elliot Lake was astoundingly successful. The year before public education and bear-resistant containers were implemented, there were 500 human-bear conflicts and three shootings. The year after implementation, conflicts dropped to 87 with no bears killed.
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.