Councillor-bears Janet Dorward and Treena Smith accept the Bear Smart Community designation from MLA Claire Trevena and Conservation Officer Ben York. (Zoë Ducklow)

Port Hardy earns Bear Smart certification

Community committed to living safely alongside bears

Port Hardy got Bear Smart certified Thursday, July 2 acknowledging the community’s efforts to live safely alongside bears.

Ben York, conservation officer in charge of the West Coast, presented the certificate, saying it was a full circle moment for him. His career began in Port Hardy 26 years ago, where he recalled being dismayed at the bear-human conflict at the time.

Now as a Bear Smart community, Port Hardy is committed to living safely with bears in the area said Heather Nelson-Smith, district staff representative on the Bear Smart Committee.

Given Port Hardy’s location, bear visits are inevitable.

“People have to understand that they are the ones that have to change their behaviour, we can’t stop the bears from coming,” she said.

The best way to make these visits safer is to control food attractants, primarily garbage. A new bear-smart garbage can that’s “too smart for bears, and too stupid for humans,” as York put it, was on display at the presentation.

Another key move is educating the public on bear safety.

“People used to think, ‘If I phone [the RAPP line] the bear’s going to be dead,’ ” she said. But actually, an early phone call gives the bear a better chance.

York emphatically agreed, “Give us the chance to change the human’s behaviour, because if you wait until the bear is ripping sheds open or charging at people, we’re out of options.”

As a Bear Smart community, York said Port Hardy will get proactive attention from his conservation officers, including attraction audits, knocking on doors and writing tickets to reinforce Bear Smart behaviour.

The Bear Smart program also required Port Hardy to do a hazard assessment, write a conflict management plan, implement continuing education, bear proof the waste management program, and implement bylaws.

Port Hardy is the ninth community to earn the Bear Smart designation, and second on Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: A young Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

READ MORE: Vancouver Island grizzlies: moving in, or just passing through?

Claire Trevena, MLA for North Island, was in town for the presentation. Coun. Janet Dorward, acting mayor for the afternoon, accepted the certificate on behalf of Port Hardy, and Councillor Treena Smith represented the Bear Smart Committee at the sparse, socially distant presentation.

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