Bear to spend the winter with skiers, riders By Amy Fendley Hali. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, this is the two year-old female black bear who for the last two months has been picnicking and causing a ruckus at the Roundhouse Lodge. Now, after a couple weeks of loitering and black bear researcher Michael Allen’s attempts at aversion conditioning, she has gone into her den. This is good news. Aversion conditioning aims at achieving three goals: firstly, to try to make bears more wary of people; to make them especially wary in the daytime; and thirdly to alleviate immediate conflict between bears and people. Allen’s aversion conditioning techniques, which he began using in October, include using pepper spray, bear bangers — 15 mm pyrotechnics fired from a pistol — and rubber bullets. The techniques are used to change a bear’s behaviour by making it not want to come back to a particular site. In Hali’s case, to the Roundhouse Lodge. When a bear recalls the negative response it got through an aversion technique, it won’t want to come back to that location. But Allen says this goal is difficult to achieve in Whistler. "With Hali we were trying to achieve the third goal, but it is time consuming," said Allen. "We were working on the second goal and it was working. She was still coming around, but not as often. I doubt very much that I’ll be able to keep her off the site forever. You have to work at it for 24 hours, scaring her away all day. To do this (aversion conditioning) on a broad scale would be very expensive. It’s not cost effective, but it’s a good short term deterrent." Aversion conditioning will work better in a ski area and a park than it will in a valley, due to the loudness of the techniques. Whistler-Blackcomb however, is supportive of aversion conditioning and has purchased equipment, which Allen has been trying out on Hali. And so far, so good. "This is a preventative rather than reactive way of dealing with a potential problem before it becomes worse," said Allen. Hali was born in January 1996 on Whistler Mountain. Now in her 1998 Whistler Mountain den, Allen is focusing on Hali’s sleeping patterns and the factors that will influence a bear’s winter hibernation on a busy ski hill. There is more than two metres of snow at her den, close to the Emerald Express chair. She is sleeping near snow making guns, and eventually a lot of snow sport enthusiasts will be passing by her front door. "I don’t think she hears much once the snow piles on the den," said Allen. "This is all part of my bear study, it’s the denning part. If bears den within the ski hill boundary, what types of dens do they use? Mainly tree dens. Hollowed out tree cavities of snags and live trees. If an entrance is snow-covered a bear will climb up the cavity and den in a notch. It’s drier and more secure against disturbance from people or other animals." Does ski area activity disturb the denning habits of bears? Allen seems to think not. "I don’t think it does, they’ve been denning on these hills for years," said Allen. "But they’ve never been this closely watched and that’s what I’m doing. Bears can be alerted anytime while denning. Usually they make noise and will not come out, but they can be alert and defend themselves anytime during hibernation." Allen is currently checking 84 intact winter dens throughout the Whistler area, including one in Harmony Bowl and two in Whistler Bowl.