KELOWNA – The Province of B.C. is providing $275,000 to WildSafeBC to reduce the number of human-wildlife conflicts, keeping people and animals safe, announced Minister Steve Thomson on behalf of Environment Minister Mary Polak at the BC Wildlife Federation’s annual general meeting today.
As people venture out into the great outdoors in early spring, the chance of human-wildlife encounters increases as some animals emerge from hibernation. Knowing what causes conflict between humans and wildlife and how to prevent it is the premise of WildSafeBC. WildSafeBC is an expansion of the Bear Aware program, arming the public with the necessary information to deal with other species of wildlife such as deer, coyotes and cougars.
This year, over 100 communities throughout British Columbia will receive support from WildSafeBC through 20 community co-ordinators. These co-ordinators lead wildlife conflict reduction education at the community level, providing presentations to community groups, schools and residents. They also work closely with local governments and conservation officers to identify and resolve wildlife-related issues in the community.
Human-wildlife conflict education provided by programs such as WildSafeBC is one component communities must implement to obtain Bear Smart status. Bear Smart encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together to address the root cause of human-bear conflict, reducing the risk to public safety and private property.
The Conservation Officer Service is British Columbia’s primary responder to human-wildlife conflicts where there is a risk to public safety, conservation concerns, or where significant property damage has occurred.
In 2013-14, the Conservation Officer Service received 28,063 calls regarding human-wildlife conflicts. Of those calls, 16,180 involved human-bear conflicts. During this same period, the total number of black bear and grizzly bear calls were down slightly from the previous year.
Over the past five years in B.C., an average of 658 black bears have been destroyed each year, while 91 have been relocated due to conflicts with people.
Mary Polak, Minister of Environment –
“We have to co-exist with many different kinds of wildlife, whether it’s in urban communities or out in the woods. Knowing how to reduce confrontations with wildlife is important not just for the safety of residents and communities, but for the animals as well. This new funding to WildSafeBC will support the expanded efforts of the BC Conservation Foundation to educate and promote awareness.”
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations –
“The responsibility to manage human-wildlife conflicts rests with everyone. It requires participation from all levels of government and local citizens to be successful. It only takes a few simple steps to reduce the number of conflicts, and WildSafeBC is a valuable resource in keeping communities and wildlife safe.”
Frank Ritcey, provincial WildSafeBC co-ordinator, British Columbia Conservation Foundation –
“This is a great example of the partnerships that can be created, and of the work that can get done when various levels of government work together. Because of the core funding provided by the Province, we will now be able to partner with municipalities, regional districts, First Nations, and private trusts to bring the WildSafeBC program to over 100 communities in B.C.”
* Communities where attractants are managed properly have seen a decline in related human-wildlife conflicts, and in the number of animals that have to be destroyed.
* The most effective and natural way to reduce human-wildlife interaction is to put away food attractants such as garbage, birdseed, compost, pet food and fruit.
* Relocating wildlife is neither viable nor a long-term solution in managing these kinds of conflicts. Often, relocated wildlife will return to conflict situations or will not survive competing with already established populations.
* The BC Conservation Foundation has administered Bear Aware, and now WildSafeBC, since 1998.
For more information on WildSafeBC, visit: www.WildSafeBC.com
Predator statistics, including black bears, grizzly bears and cougars are updated monthly at: www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/info/wildlife_human_interaction/predator-conflicts.html
Report human-wildlife conflicts to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line toll-free at 1 877 952-7277 (RAPP), or visit the RAPP website at: www.rapp.bc.ca