By next summer, Whistler should be officially labeled "Bear Smart."
Heather Beresford, the municipality's environmental stewardship manager, said thanks to council's approval of the Human-Bear Conflict Management Plan last week, Whistler has completed all the steps for the Bear Smart application.
She is currently filling out the paper work and hopes to send it off to the provincial government in the next few weeks.
"The feedback we have gotten from the Ministry of Environment has been quite positive, so we are optimistic that we will get the status," Beresford said Tuesday.
Once Whistler receives the designation, residents probably will not notice many on-the-ground changes, said Beresford. Rather, the designation will make it easier for Whistler to continue running many of its bear aversion programs over the long term, including non-lethal management.
"Whistler has been ahead of the curve and really acting as a bear smart community for the last seven or eight years in a lot of ways, with hazard management, non-lethal responses of bears, and quite a lot of public education," said Beresford. "There won't be a lot of change, but we will be recognized and designated by the province as a Bear Smart community."
The Bear Smart application builds on bear management strategies Whistler has had in place since the 1990s. Following a sharp rise in human-bear conflicts in 1997, the Whistler Black Bear Task Team was formed and produced the Black Bear Management Plan. From there, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has continued to spearhead initiatives to reduce human-bear conflicts.
Beresford added that Whistler's ability to apply for this status is largely thanks to the efforts of the community.
"We call it bear management, but it is largely people that need to make changes in their behaviour," said Beresford. "From what I see in Whistler, we are making great progress, and I want to thank the community for all the efforts they have made."
To date, Kamloops is the only community in B.C. to be designated a Bear Smart community.