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Jeanie's story



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"...It shows me that it is possible for a bear to live here and co-exist," said Allen who has been leading bear watching tours on the mountains for 10 years, as well as doing educational outreach in the schools in the valley, and studying and recording the population since 1993.

In many ways Jeanie - named after Allen's Scottish grandmother - is Whistler's canary in the mine. Her life has been documented for over a decade in the local papers and her family life is followed like a local soap opera. When she gets into trouble people fear for her, and when the cubs she teaches bad habits to are destroyed the locals grieve.

But Whistler bears are changing and the new age bruins are likely to stay up high - still grazing on the runs, but sleeping in the continuous forests on the boundaries of the mountains.

The next great task, said Allen, is to track the offspring and manage them so they do not have to be destroyed.

"We need to know individual bears, and we need to know how the population flows with these young bears dispersing," he said.

There are four young females on the mountains that will be breeding soon and very few of the older mom bears are dying off. It is likely, believes Allen, that some of these females will need to disperse along with the males who usually leave.

For Dolson part of the solution is crystal clear:

"I just hope we are finally there and the worst is behind us," she said of the destruction of conflict bears.

"Now we have to maintain what we are doing. If there are no attractants then there are no problems, it is just so simple."

And having this unique relationship with Jeanie is part of that.

"I think the most valuable lesson that we have learned (from Jeanie is) to respect bears," said Dolson.

"We have learned how highly intelligent they are and how tolerant they are of our existence in their backyard and we have learned about our poor behaviour."

Said Allen: "She has taught us about bears, that maybe not all bears are the same. She has taught us how adaptable bears can be. She has allowed us into her life, not being the kind of bear that runs away and hides.

"Jeanie, for a lot of years, was almost on display.

"Now it is our turn to pay her back for that because she is not going to change."