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RMOW adds bear alert tool to its website

New feature provides real-time bear updates and chance to report conflict behaviour



The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has introduced a feature to its website to help the public stay on top of bear-management issues in the community.

The new bear-alert tool provides updates on bear activity in real time, as well as recommendations on how to avoid conflict with Whistler's ursine population. The public will also be able to report bear sightings and unsecured attractants on the site that can then be passed along to the Conservation Officer Service (COS).

"Our hope is that bear issues will stay top of mind. We are constantly reminding the community of our shared responsibility to protect the bears," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden of the impetus behind the initiative.

Sgt. Simon Gravel with the COS sees the new alerting tool as a way to provide important information "in a timely manner, and also some specific information related to their neighbourhood or specific bear activity."

Acknowledging the reluctance some in the community feel calling the COS over fears it will lead to a bear being killed, Wilhelm-Morden said the RMOW, by acting as a conduit through the bear-alert feature, may work to counter the consequences of that perception.

"If you get the information to (the COS) by the time the bear is already a problem bear, then the resolution may only be lethal, but if there's early awareness, then the COS can take non-lethal steps to deal with the bear," she explained.

The goal of the initiative, according to Gravel, is not so much to shift the reporting of bear issues to the RMOW, but rather to ensure the community is getting transparent, up-to-date information.

"The purpose is to communicate to the public in a transparent way, and to make sure they understand all the partners involved in bear management here are working together to find some solutions," he noted.

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With Ironman Canada set to take place in Whistler and Pemberton next weekend, the COS has been working with race officials after a bear cub was inadvertently killed during last year's triathlon. A sow and three cubs were also relocated during the 2015 event after the mother bear bluff-charged a racer.

"As you can imagine, it's a very difficult task just with the geography of Whistler and the course going through a very large territory. But every year we're doing better, and I'm optimistic everyone involved is very engaged," Gravel said. "Definitely our goal is to have a conflict-free event."

Gravel said the COS and Ironman organizers have ramped up their bear-safe messaging to volunteers, fine-tuned plans for garbage storage, and brought in a member of Wind River Bear Institute from Montana to assist. The institute uses dogs and certified trainers to curb bear conflict at major events, as it did at the 2016 Pemberton Music Festival.