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Bear Smart needs volunteers for its Biking for Bears program

New Bear Smart representative named to Whistler Bear Advisory Committee

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The Whistler Get Bear Smart Society is calling on local "bike and bear enthusiasts"—which it shouldn't have much trouble finding in this town—to help patrol areas with potential for human-wildlife conflict.

Last fall, Bear Smart launched its Biking for Bears Ambassador program, enlisting half a dozen volunteers to cycle areas typically frequented by both bears and the public. (The society does not identify the exact locations publicly in order to prevent them from becoming hotspots for bear viewing.) The ambassadors work to minimize the potential for conflict by educating the public on safe bear-viewing practices.

"We had great success last fall," said Nicole Fitzgerald, Bear Smart's outgoing appointee to the Whistler Bear Advisory Committee. "The interactions volunteers had with the public were very positive. The majority of people approached by volunteers were very open and receptive to the information."

Fitzgerald said there were two core messages volunteers imparted to the public last fall: Maintaining a safe distance of approximately 100 metres from bears; and keeping dogs on leash, mandatory in Whistler except in designated off-leash areas at Alpha Lake, Bayly Park, Rainbow Park and Lost Lake Park. (More info can be found at whistler.ca/dogs.)

"Some people didn't understand the impact that an off-leash dog could have on a bear," Fitzgerald added. "They thought, 'I feel comfortable with my dog's safety,' but didn't realize that they were actually threatening the safety of the bear. Once that connection was made, dogs were leashed."

Volunteers will have access to a comprehensive education guide and don't need to be bear experts to participate in the program. Applicants can sign up for as little as one hour and as much as five hours of volunteer work. Volunteers are needed during the first week of May anytime between 2:30 and 8 p.m.

Those interested should contact program coordinator Ivana Minic-Lukac at ivana@bearsmart.com.

New appointee to municipal bear committee

Bear Smart has a new representative on the municipal Whistler Bear Advisory Committee that brings a wealth of experience to the role.

Ellie Lamb takes over the position from Fitzgerald, who will remain on as a media consultant for Bear Smart. Lamb has more than 20 years experience as a bear-viewing guide, and currently serves as a director with both the North Shore Black Bear Society and the Grizzly Bear Foundation. She also sits on a municipal bear working group in the North Shore, a role she believes will have some overlap with her new position in Whistler.

"I think there will be crossover with some of the agencies that will be represented in Whistler that we've been working with in North Van," she noted.

Lamb said she brings "a unique perspective" to the committee, which includes representatives from the RMOW, local police, the Conservation Officer Service, and the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative, as someone who has worked closely with bears in the field.

"I've spent a lot of time with bears learning their behaviour and language, and there's no doubt they're very clear in their messaging. They're very fair and very peaceful animals," she said. "The more we know about them and their intentions, the more comfortable we are to apply tools and to hone attitudes that are representative of what we need to do with them in a fair way."