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Community urged to 'step up' to save bear's life

Male bear seen accessing garbage in Nordic for several weeks



Local officials and conservation groups are urging Whistlerites to do their part to prevent the death of a bear that has been spotted accessing unnatural food in Nordic.

"It's time to step up and save this bear's life," said Sylvia Dolson, director of Whistler's Get Bear Smart Society, in a recent social media post.

The male bear, named Bjorn, has apparently accessed garbage in the residential neighbourhood several times in recent weeks, and doesn't appear to be intimidated by people.

"We know that the bear is very comfortable among humans, so he's obviously gotten some positive experience with humans before in order to show that kind of behaviour, and that's what we're trying to change," explained Simon Gravel with the Conservation Officer Service (COS).

"It is a slippery slope for a bear showing that kind of behaviour."

The bear is tagged, noted Gravel, indicating it has a history of conflict with humans and had been previously relocated out of Whistler.

"Relocation is not always the answer, the process is difficult on the bear and the animal often returns," Dolson wrote in a follow-up email to Pique.

"Ultimately, the answer lies (in) being responsible by securing your attractants and not leaving any access points unattended at your home."

Now, the COS is teaming up with Bear Smart, the Whistler Wildlife Protection Group (WWPG), and municipal Bylaw Services to get the word out and hopefully intervene before the bear's behaviour escalates and officers are forced to kill it.

"I think it all depends on how the community responds to our request here to be extremely vigilant, to report the bear when they see it, and also to report attractants," Gravel said. "So if you see someone who is negligent with attractants, it's important to report it to Bylaw Services or the Conservation Officer Service." Failure to secure attractants comes with a fine of $230.

Gravel said it's extremely important the public scares the bear off when it's spotted in residential neighbourhoods so it breaks its positive association to inhabited areas. That means making as much noise as possible; banging pots and pans, sounding airhorns — whatever it takes.

"The important message is everyone should be responsible to make this bear feel unwelcome in the neighbourhood," he added.

Both bylaw officers and members of the citizen-led WWPG have been canvassing Nordic in recent days. Ranya Dube of the WWPG said the group has been going door-to-door educating residents on proper bear-safe practices, and has been surprised by the lack of awareness out there.

"We struggle with it, but if everyone talks about it more, that's the way we're going to get the word out there because, again, a lot of people don't go on social media or simply don't know," she said.

Bear sightings can be called into COS at 1-877-952-7277. Bylaw Services can be reached at 604-935-8280 if you see improperly managed attractants.

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