The City of Port Alberni can now add “Bear Smart status” to its many designations.
Provincial environment minister Mary Polak announced that the city received the Bear Smart designation in a news release on Sept. 7.
“Since engaging in the Bear Smart program Port Alberni, a city with historically high levels of conflict with bears, has seen a consistent reduction in the level of conflict and number of bears destroyed,” Polak said. “Congratulations to the City of Port Alberni for achieving Bear Smart status.”
Achieving the status is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people, the public awareness campaign of which won’t stop now, Bear Smart BC Consulting spokesperson Crystal McMillan said.
“It takes an entire community to achieve something like this, and to continue to improve it,” McMillan said.
Bear Smart is a volunteer program encourages communities to brainstorm solutions that address the causes of human-bear conflicts and to reduce the risks to human safety.
Port Alberni is the first community on Vancouver Island to receive the designation and joins the Village of Lions Bay, Whistler, Squamish and Kamloops as Bear Smart communities.
“Achievement of Bear Smart status highlights the considerable efforts made by our community to reduce human-bear conflict, as well as our ongoing commitment to provide education and raise public awareness with regards to bear hazards,” Douglas said.
The volunteer program encourages civic, corporate and private citizen collaboration to brainstorm solutions that address the causes of human-bear conflicts.
McMillan made particular reference to civic initiatives in Port Alberni such as new bylaws which require bear-proof garbage cans. Local Bear Smart groups are also mulling lobbying for an amendment to the city’s official community plan that would address wildlife conservation, McMillan said.
The benefits of a Bear Smart designation include advertisement at the Union ob BC Municipalities, as well as in Tourism BC publications as a Bear Smart Community.
“Port Alberni has set an example for other communities to follow,” she said. “It’s taken about six years to get here and there’s lots more work to do,” she said.
The Bear Smart Community program is designed by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
According to conservation officials, an average of 600 black bears have been destroyed each year in BC, while 93 have been relocated due to conflicts with people.
In 2012-13, the Conservation Officer Service received 25,184 calls regarding human-wildlife conflicts. Of those calls, 15,833 involved human-bear conflicts.
Over 20 other communities in B.C. are actively pursuing Bear Smart status.