Supporting Innovative Ways to Prevent Human-Bear Conflict at Special Events in Whistler
Whistler is busier than ever with events that draw many people. With this activity comes an increase in the potential for significant human-bear conflict.
This year, the Foundation was approached by Get Bear Smart Society and the Wind River Bear Institute to positively augment measures used by event coordinators to keep our bears safe.
With support from the Environmental Legacy Fund, the Wind River Institute was able to partner with the Whistler Half Marathon and Ironman. They used trained biologists and specially trained dogs to proactively identify areas at events where participants are most likely to encounter bears due to habitat or non-natural attractants. The biologists can then recommend strategies to prevent the likelihood of human-bear encounters. The team worked with event coordinators, the RMOW and the BC Conservation Officers.
The biologists conducted trail assessments to look for high concentrations of seasonal bear foods, and areas where sightlines might prevent a person’s ability to detect a bear. They also conducted sweeps before the race using bear dogs to detect bear locations. By identifying areas where bears encounters are likely to occur, the bears can be encouraged to leave using noise and the race organizers can be alerted to these locations. The dog handler teams are also on site during the event to respond to bear sightings and verify the direction of travel and continued presence of a bears on or near the course.
We are pleased that no human-bear conflicts occurred during the Whistler Half Marathon and the Whistler Ironman events. It’s wonderful to see Whistler moving towards an even more proactive approach to preventing human-bear conflicts.