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Whistler restaurants invited to join Bear Smart program

Staff training and video to be available from July



Whistler's Bear Smart Society has cooked up a new way to get restaurants involved in helping to protect bears in and around the busy resort.

The Bear Smart Restaurant Program is a new designation that eateries can earn to show they respect ursine visitors, said the society's executive director Sylvia Dolson. The program launches in July.

"Everyone is really excited and waiting for the program to launch so that they can get staff trained up for the season. They're just happy to have stuff in writing and in the video so that when someone new comes along in the middle of the season they can use it," Dolson said.

"There is a need for restaurant staff to be educated about bears because there is such a high turnover. What do you do when you've come from Australia and a bear comes along and you're used to kangaroos!"

Dolson hopes the program will rub off on visitors as well. Brochures will be supplied to restaurants in six languages.

The society, supported by Shaw Communications, is currently completing a 12-minute staff training video to show how to take care of food waste in bear country. The plan is supported by the Restaurant Association of Whistler.

"We have a DVD that comes with an entire package, a training manual for the manager, everything they need to know. There's another for the staff," Dolson said. "In the staff training manual there is a quiz, so after they watch the video and read the information they sign a Declaration of Co-existence. They actually make a promise to the bears to do their part."

The declaration states that the signer will "vow to co-exist with bears" and will keep the patio and perimeter of the restaurant clean and attractant-free, and also bring in food deliveries promptly. All used fryer oils, compost, recycling and garbage will be kept secure. It also states that the signer has learned what to do if a bear approaches.

Along with the training manuals there are posters and a decal that can be displayed on restaurant doors.

"The decal says that the participating location is a Bear Smart Restaurant, and they can use it on their website," she said.

It is one of several big Bear Smart projects for 2013, including a new book Joy of Bears, which is already available for sale around Whistler Village or on the society's website:

The book is dedicated to Jeanie, an iconic adult black bear known and loved around the resort who raised many cubs over the years. Jeanie developed an interest in restaurant refuse and was trapped and shot in 2011 after showing aggressive behaviour, according to conservation officers. She had been caught and relocated several times prior to that final encounter.

"The restaurant program was born out of the issues that caused Jeanie to lose her life," said Dolson. "She had gotten into the garbage rooms and actually went into restaurants in the village. Her death caused a lot of local upset at the time."

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