A District of Port Hardy councillor is calling for the community to continue on a path started by the previous council to become designated “Bear Smart”.
At their regular meeting Aug. 11, Councillor Dennis Dugas raised the issue of the suspension of Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant and orphaned bear cubs Jordan and Athena who are currently being cared for at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.
What led to the death of the sow and subsequent capture of the cubs is “really a people problem, not a bear problem,” said Dugas.
Dugas said there are only seven communities in British Columbia that have been designated “Bear Smart” and that if the district could work to obtain that status, that would be “something that we could really be proud of,” he said.
“Hopefully we as a council will support that in the future.”
“We have done some work in the past,” said Chief Administrative Officer Rick Davidge in an interview.
“There’s quite a number of Bear Smart garbage bins throughout the community. There is about 25 or 30 of them,” Davidge said.
“We also did some work on survey information in terms of where the hot spots were, if you will, for wildlife,” he said.
“Port Hardy does have a number of green belts, and, of course, drainages and waterways that wildlife can take advantage of, so that information was gathered as well.”
Davidge said one area they will focus on is education.
“We’ll be looking at budgeting for information brochures and other education opportunities for the future.”
The City of Port Alberni was designated a ‘Bear Smart Community’ in 2013 by the Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer Service, the first on Vancouver Island to receive this designation.
According to the Ministry of Environment every year hundreds, and in some years thousands of bears are destroyed as a result of conflicts with people. The British Columbia Conservation Officer Service spends more than $1 million every year responding to bear complaints and relocating or destroying bears. Property damage is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Most of these problems begin when people allow bears to access non-natural food sources such as garbage.
The Bear Smart Community Program, designed by the Ministry in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) is a voluntary, preventative conservation measure that encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together.
The goal is to reduce the risks to human safety and private property and the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year.
In order to become Bear Smart, a community is required to prepare a bear hazard assessment of the community and the surrounding area; prepare a bear/human conflict management plan; implement a continuing education program directed at all sectors of the community; develop and maintain a bear-proof municipal solid waste management system, and implement Bear Smart bylaws prohibiting the provision of food to bears through intent, neglect, or irresponsible management of attractants.
A bear hazard assessment includes identifying high-use bear habitat in the community and surrounding area such as travel corridors, natural food sources such as berry patches and salmon streams as well as breeding and denning areas. It also includes mapping non-natural attractants within the community such as garbage cans, orchards, dumpsters, etc. and mapping where conflicts have occurred in the past.