Editor note: Local context and history at this link
The provincial government is providing $357,000 over two years to bring the popular Bear Aware program to more communities around the province this summer, Environment Minister Barry Penner announced today.
"Bear Aware is a valuable and proven tool that helps reduce bear-human conflicts," said Penner. "We are making this funding available to ensure more people learn how to keep bears out of their yards and neighbourhoods, and to keep bears out of trouble."
Bear Aware is an educational program of the British Columbia Conservation Foundation. Bear Aware community co-ordinators lead bear-proofing efforts at the community level. They work closely with the public, conservation officers and local officials to identify and resolve bear-related issues.
Bear Aware programs will be offered in 15 communities this year, including: Kamloops, Kimberley, Squamish, North Vancouver, Castlegar, Fernie, Revelstoke, Rossland, Golden, Elk Valley, Kaslo, Whistler and Bella Coola.
Rural areas between Nelson, Creston and Cranbrook will also get a program as will the Upper and Lower Slocan Valley, North Arrow Lakes area.
Bear Aware community co-ordinators will be hired to work as part of the B.C. Conservation Corps to deliver the programs.
Bears are attracted to developed communities by the opportunity to forage for food. The solution lies in reducing the attraction. This may mean changes to the garbage collection schedule, new bear-proof litter cans and dumpsters, community planning to amend wildlife corridors or green spaces, and the removal of un-used, fruit-bearing trees.
"Both people and bears would be better off if there were fewer bears in our towns," said Deborah Gibson, executive director of the B.C. Conservation Foundation. "Because bears are simply animals seeking whatever food they can find, the onus is on us to prevent conflicts."
Bear Aware community co-ordinators also provide materials to create relevant presentations and displays for public spaces, events and schools, go door-to-door to bring advice and skills to people directly in neighbourhoods where there have been long-term bear problems or recent concerns, and train volunteers to deliver the Bear Aware message.
Additional funding became available after plans for a bear cub rehabilitation project on Vancouver's North Shore were abandoned. The money that was being held for the proposed Bear Cub Rehabilitation Centre at Fromme Mountain has been re-directed to the delivery of the Bear Aware program.
For more information on Bear Aware, visithttp://www.bearaware.bc.ca/index.htm