BEAR UPDATE: STATUS OF BEAR RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN WHISTLER By Michael Allen Black Bear Researcher Coast Mountain Black Bear Resources During the course of 1999, the media and public are again showing great concern about the way black bears which either feed on garbage or are active in close proximity to people are handled. It’s human nature that everyone has their own opinions regarding how human-bear conflicts should be managed in Whistler. Some views are open minded and genuine, others tend to attack based out of frustration for the problem occurring for so many years in Whistler. I would like to clear the air on my views from the standpoint of a scientific researcher and as a person who just likes having bears around. Since their seem to be an increase of bear experts in Whistler I want to make it very clear who I am and what my role is in Whistler. I am not a black bear biologist nor am I a registered professional wildlife biologist, and I have never claimed to be. Nor am I a bear expert. I refer to myself as a black bear researcher — a student of bears — someone who is constantly learning something new and reinforcing already acquired knowledge. My knowledge stems from direct field observations or interpretations of bear signs. I would like to call myself a naturalist but in the United Kingdom a naturalist is someone who likes to run around naked and that’s not one of my strong points. This is my 13th year studying black bears who make their homes near people and their developments. Bears have led me around dumps, golf courses, orchards, farms, hydroelectric dams, rivers, lakes, beaches, interpretive forests, ski areas, parks, hiking/biking trails, and residential areas. I have one concrete fact to report: black bears are extremely adaptable and extremely unmanageable. In order to create and maintain a successful relationship with black bears the people need to be managed — period. You can yell, spray, shoot or otherwise deter black bears from Whistler backyards but in the end when they get hungry and berries ripen or garbage is left available near houses the bears will return. It is simply their life strategy to feed half the year so they may successfully sleep the other half when there is no food.