News » Whistler

Whistler can improve bear management says specialist

Report part of provincial Bear Smart program



Whistler could be the first place in the province to receive official Bear Smart status but there’s still room for improvement, according to bear specialist Wayne McCrory.

McCrory, who has been doing an in-depth bear hazard assessment in Whistler over the past year, highlighted a number of areas of concern in the resort.

His job he said is to identify areas where there could be a serious bear attack.

But he was first quick to point out that Whistler is already a leader in the province in terms of bear management and his recommendations are more focused on "fine tuning and tightening up an incredible system."

"You really have done a remarkable job," he told council on Monday night.

His top recommendation for Whistler is to hire a dedicated bear specialist to monitor the situation in the resort and stay on top of the bears all the time.

This could reduce the number of bear incidents he said.

To date, six bears have been destroyed this summer alone. Two more have died after being hit by cars on the highway.

Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the JJ Whistler Bear Society, said the need for that bear specialist has never been more apparent.

"We just can’t seem to pull it off with the manpower that we have in place," she said after Monday’s council meeting.

"I don’t want to downplay the RCMP’s support in all of this but we have to remember that they’re there to protect public safety and we really can’t expect them to be out there doing wildlife management."

Mayor Hugh O’Reilly pointed out that there seems to be more bears around town this year compared to previous years.

"I don’t know if there’s more bears but for some reason they seem to be getting into more trouble," said McCrory.

He highlighted interface areas in particular, those areas where the forest meets the built up areas, as prime bear territory.

These places are peaceful, secure and close to food sources. More importantly, Whistler has a lot of interface areas.

"You made the area very comfortable for black bears," said McCrory.

There are four areas in particular where Whistler needs more proactive bear management, he said.

They are:

• itinerant camping in green spaces;

• local playgrounds within 30 metres of occupied bear habitat;

• the school playgrounds at Myrtle Philip and Whistler Secondary School and;

• the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.

McCrory recommended that the resort take a page out of Canmore, Alberta’s book for bear management improvement.

Add a comment