There is no shortage of bear reports in the residential areas around Silver Star ski resort, near Vernon, B.C.
Now a new community stewardship group has formed for the area and is working to prevent bears from being destroyed due to conflict with humans.
Silver Star Bear Stewardship was started last winter and has been focused on educating residents and visitors about how to protect bears, starting with habits like keeping garbage secure and not putting out bear attractants like bird feeders.
“We are hoping to change the idea that we leave garbage out and then a conservation officer may have to come destroy that [bear]. Nobody wants to do that,” said Kathy Jenkins, group coordinator for Silver Star Bear Stewardship.
“Instead of having bears destroyed, we stop that at the start by not having the food out for them.”
The executive director of Destination SilverStar, a local tourism marketing, and management organization, is part of the project. Cassandra Zerebeski said the group’s main message to residents and visitors is that humans have a big role to play in protecting bears.
It’s our job to help make sure the bears are safe and are kept away from human attractants and it is really significant for us to have that active part,” Zerebeski said.
“There is not really problem bears, there is a bit more problem people.”
Last month the group launched an online reporting tool where residents can report black bear sightings.
So far nearly 50 people have made reports.
The plan is to use that crowd-sourced information about where bears have been spotted, and what they are doing, to educate the community.
“Eventually we will have a website attached to the survey so other people can go and see if there has been a bear in their neighbourhood and if it is getting into bear attractants,” Jenkins said.
Vernon among B.C.’s “deadliest communities” for black bears
Ultimately, Jenkins said the whole region needs to be on board with protecting bears as the animals spotted at Silver Star travel well beyond the neighbourhood.
The stewardship group would like to eventually have Silver Star designated a “Bear Smart” community. Only ten B.C. communities have that labeled.
Bear Smart communities have to meet a variety of conditions including a bear hazard assessment and creating a strategy to reduce bear-human conflicts by addressing attractants and scenarios that have caused hazards in the past.
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