By Claire Piech
If the municipality’s efforts pan out, black bears will not be seen prowling the streets of Function Junction and Spring Creek this summer.
Black bears living in the old landfill and Interpretive Forest have been predicted to search these urban spaces for food over the next few weeks because of recent changes to their habitat.
“We want to be proactive and prevent the bears coming into the area, rather than waiting for something to happen,” said Brian Barnett, general manager of environmental services of the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW).
“At this time, however, no one really knows how the bears will react,” he added.
In particular, the bears’ usual food sources are changing due to construction of the Whistler Athletes’ Village and closing of both the landfill and solid waste transfer station.
In order to discourage bears from migrating into Function Junction and Spring Creek, the RMOW and the Get Bear Smart Society (GBS) are working together to reduce bear attractants in the area.
Barnett sent out a “bear alert” letter in conjunction with GBS earlier this month, warning residents of the situation and encouraging people to be “Bear Smart”.
The letter reminded residents to minimize any bear attractants, including garbage, bird feeders, pet food, barbecues, and compost.
“Residents should also take care not to stockpile their garbage indoors, as black bears in Whistler have entered homes in the past after smelling trash,” added Sylvia Dolson, executive director of GBS.
The municipality is concerned that if the bears find food in either Function Junction or Spring Creek, they will continue to return throughout the summer.
“We really don’t want them to expand their home ranges into these areas looking for food,” said Dolson.
She explained that there is plenty of food in the Interpretive Forest and no need for the bears to wander into Function Junction and Spring Creek.
So far, the protective measures seem to be working.
“The bears are definitely out and about, but we haven’t seen anything unusual yet,” said Barnett.
“There is really no need for alarm. As long as we keep things nice and clean for now, there shouldn’t be a problem,” added Dolson.