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This morning, I was witness to a bear encounter and I was disheartened to think that this young bear could become another statistic due to human negligence. As I was walking with a friend and our dogs on a local hiking trail, we came upon a campsite and saw a bear rummaging through the back of a pick-up truck. After scaring the bear away, we woke the owner in his tent from what must have been a "very deep sleep" to advise him that a bear had torn through food and garbage which it accessed through the open tailgate of his truck. How stupid can we humans be?
I applaud the work of the J.J. Whistler Bear Society, Michael Allen, The Municipality of Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, etc. in doing their utmost to try to educate both locals and visitors on bear country etiquette, and the RCMP for their use of non-lethal tactics with bear-human encounters. I hope more people heed the advice of these local experts to ensure the lives of these beautiful creatures.
In view of the recent bear killings by the Conservation Officer Service, I would like to point out that there is a tremendous onus on the community at large to be responsible residents of bear country. Eliminating bear attractants is key to minimizing conflict situations. Garbage must be stored indoors or in bear-proof containers, avoid the use of birdfeeders during bear season (March-November), keep pet food inside, keep your BBQs and compost clean, and remove fruit from trees as it ripens.
Furthermore, it is critical that community members act responsibly by not allowing undesirable bear behaviour to get out of hand. Please call the RCMP when you witness potential problem behaviour. The RCMP are equipped and trained in non-lethal bear management and can deal with a human-bear conflict situation promptly.
If the bears can be dealt with immediately while they are exhibiting undesirable behaviour, then we can effectively teach the bears how to coexist in our territory. Negative conditioning is more effective if used right away, as well as each time the animal exhibits undesirable behaviour.
Bears must understand when they have crossed the line and the lines must remain consistent. It is critical we dont send the bears a mixed message, allowing them to feel comfortable relaxing on our porches and feeding from our bird feeders. To begin with, this is neither acceptable nor respectful bear behavior. Bears should not be allowed to feel comfortable too close to our "dens" or be permitted to eat our human foods. Of course its OK to allow them to pass through and enjoy their company. Whistler loves its bears. But dont allow them to cross the line. It will only end in the bears demise. Bears will learn to be far more tolerant of us, than we can be of them. As highly intelligent and adaptive animals, they will learn this very quickly.