As most people in Whistler know, we live amongst a healthy population of black bears. Some people don't mind having black bears around; however some people do. The only question is: who was in Whistler first, humans or bears? I think we all know the answer to that question. (Bears!)
If you have ever been to Rainbow Park and had a wander through the old fishing camp, you probably noticed pictures of a pet bear. Even back then we were trying to urbanize a wild animal. Urbanization is the increased density of human-created structures in comparison to the areas surrounding it. Urbanize, that is exactly what we have done in Whistler.
Once again the bears were here first and now they are in an area of "increased density of human-created structures." As the number of houses and businesses in Whistler increases, so must the black bears' tolerance for us to be here. In fact, some black bears have come to love us. I will show you in the next paragraph how a Whistler urban black bear's weekend might go....
A typical Friday or Saturday night for a Whistler urban black bear might include a cruise around the base of the bike park after the lifts close and looking for food scraps and drink containers that accidentally missed the bear-proof garbage bins.
The black bear might go through the newly paved public parking lots looking for banana peels, apple cores, orange peels, coffee cups and anything else that smells good and is left behind from the day's activities.
If the black bear is really hungry and something smells good in a vehicle that has been left in the parking lot, it might be worth trying to get into.
Continuing on the black bear's route, eventually he or she might wander into the bushes close to the late night food vendors that are open after the bars close. The black bear is clever; he/she knows that intoxicated individuals miss the bear-proof garbage bins with their pizza, burger and poutine scraps. The bear will wait patiently to pick up those scraps.
The few urban black bears that haven't been patient have even found themselves being harassed and chased by intoxicated humans. For a black bear, being chased is scary. However the reward outweighs the risk, or so we are teaching them. Please remember to place your garbage in the bear-proof bins so that we can try to educate Whistler's black bears to be rural instead of urban.
If you would like to learn the truth about living with Whistler's urban black bears and not the legends, please join Bear Aware for an informative presentation at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center in Whistler for the Sunday Speakers Series. Nicola Brabyn and Lori Homstol are both biologists who have researched black bears in the Whistler area for the past three to five years and have some interesting information to share with you.
The presentation, Living with Whistler's Urban Black Bears, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 6 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre; admission is by donation.
To learn more about living in Bear country please visit www.bearaware.bc.ca or call 604-905-BEAR, and select option 3.