How to be a good neighbour: coexisting with grizzly bears in the Sea to Sky
PEMBERTON, May 3rd, 2022 -- Here in the Sea to Sky, we live with bears in our backyards (often literally). So whether at home, on the trail, or in the backcountry, spring has arrived and it’s time to remind ourselves how to be “bear aware”.
Last week, the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative (C2C) and the Grizzly Bear Foundation (GBF) presented a series of spring grizzly bear safety and coexistence workshops led by Gillian Sanders of Grizzly Bear Coexistence Solutions. Through her work, Gillian aims to improve grizzly bear-human coexistence through education, collaboration, and the use of practical and effective tools including bear spray and electric fencing.
The Sea to Sky is home to both black bears and grizzly bears, with Pemberton lying at the habitat fracture of two threatened and recovering grizzly bear populations: the Squamish-Lillooet (estimated 46 bears) and South Chilcotin (estimated 222 bears) population units.
“As grizzly bears recover in these areas, we want people to understand that coexistence is possible. Grizzly bears play important ecological and cultural roles on our landscapes, and sharing space with them requires awareness, understanding, and some extra effort on our part. And it’s to all our benefit - for people and bears,” says Taylor Green, Outreach and Communications Manager at the Grizzly Bear Foundation.
Whether you are a mountain biker, hiker, farmer, or hunter out in bear country, being prepared and equipped with knowledge and understanding of grizzly bear behaviour - along with a readily accessible can of bear spray - will help you avoid negative encounters with bears. Last Wednesday’s grizzly bear safety workshop, which had a full house at the Pemberton Library, gave participants a chance to practice with inert bear spray. Like any protective gear, when in bear country, always bring your bear spray.
“One of the most important ways we can keep people and bears safe is by preventing bears from accessing attractants around our homes, farms, and communities. This includes not storing garbage outside, cleaning our barbecues, and taking down bird feeders when bears are active. In farm country, as in Pemberton Meadows, this also means protecting crops, fruit trees, honey bees, and livestock, to allow bears to pass through the valley safely, avoiding encounters with people,” said Jolene Patrick, Coexistence and Education Coordinator with Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative.
As presented at the second workshop, located at the Beer Farmers last Thursday evening, electric fencing is a highly effective tool for managing a variety of attractants. When it’s properly installed and maintained, electric fencing works to keep bears out. Gillian also visited local farms to provide advice, and tips and tricks for installing and maintaining electric fencing specific to individual properties and their needs. Each of the farms visited will receive a free digital electric fence tester.
C2C and GBF are working in collaboration to support recovery of southwest BC’s threatened grizzly bear populations. In 2020, C2C commissioned a Pemberton Meadows Bear Hazard Assessment (BHA) with support from GBF. Conducted by Independent Research Scientist Dr. Lana Ciarniello, the BHA provides recommendations and actions for grizzly bear connectivity and management strategies to reduce human-bear conflict. Devin Pawluk, C2C Pemberton Meadows BHA coordinator, will continue to work with farmers and residents to mitigate grizzly bear conflicts. Devin is also contracted as the SLRD WildSafeBC coordinator.
In the works: C2C and GBF are working on launching an electric fencing cost share program to support farmers with their coexistence efforts in key grizzly bear connectivity areas. Stay tuned for more information and upcoming initiatives.
Photo: Gillian Sanders of Grizzly Bear Coexistence Solutions leads an electric fencing workshop for Pemberton Meadows residents.
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