Editor, The News:
The Bear Aware program actually agrees with the two previous writers – and that is on the point that there are too many bears in too close a proximity to human habitation in our community.
We may differ on what the best long-term solution to the problem is, but we both have the same goal in mind – making our communities a safer place to live.
I am the new Bear Aware coordinator for Maple Ridge. As a resident of Whonnock, I look forward to sharing the Bear Aware approach with my neighbours, an approach that has proven successful at reducing human-bear conflict in many British Columbia communities.
Maple Ridge is built on prime bear habitat. You could go as far as to say most of British Columbia is prime bear habitat.
Since neither humans nor bears have other places to go, we need to find ways that we can each have our own space and safely share those spaces where we overlap.
It is important to understand that Bear Aware is not about not being able to do things. It is about doing things in a more responsible manner.
Just as we have learned that smoking is bad for us and that wearing seat belts saves lives, we are evolving in our practices around how we manage our attractants.
Managing our attractants in a responsible manner makes our communities safer for our neighbours and reduces the potential for human-bear conflicts.
Since the introduction of Bear Aware in 1999, the average number of bears destroyed on an annual basis has dropped from about 1,000 a year to less than half of that.
This reduction occurred during a time of population growth and increased human-bear interaction.
The Bear Aware program has been introduced to Maple Ridge to help people to reduce bear attractants in our neighbourhoods and to minimize bears’ access to garbage and other unnatural foods.
This has the immediate effect of reducing human–bear conflict by diminishing the incentive for bears to linger near human habitation.
Some things that you can do to reduce human-bear conflicts in your neighbourhood:
• using secure bins for garbage and putting the bins out for pickup in the morning, not the night before;
• using bird feeders only in the winter, when local bears are not as active and natural bird food is limited;
• managing fruit trees so that ripe fruit does not remain available to bears;
• using electric fencing to protect fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, livestock and composts.
People unsure of the Bear Aware program need to look to other communities that have implemented it to see its benefits. Squamish is an excellent example of how a municipality, its residents, the Bear Aware program, the Ministry of Environment and the B.C. Conservation Officer Service are working together to decrease human–bear conflicts and increasing human safety and preventing the unnecessary killing of bears.
For more information on the Bear Aware program and what you can do to reduce human-bear conflict in your neighbourhood, please go to www.bearaware.bc.ca or contact me directly.
Bear Aware community coordinator