The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) developed the Grizzly Bear-Human Conflict Mitigation Strategy along with the Conservation Officer Service (COS) and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).
The strategy was finalized in September 2019, updated with a vegetation report and recommendations in March 2020 and includes:
- conflict mitigation strategies, and
- a grizzly bear response plan.
In the event of bear conflicts, at its discretion the Province continues to be empowered to close trails as needed.
Grizzly bears and black bears live in valley and alpine areas in Whistler.
With increased visitation and access to Whistler’s Alpine Trail Network, the strategy provides recommendations to protect grizzly bears in their natural habitats and provide guidance for recreational users.
The Trails Planning Working Group leads alpine train planning initiatives in Whistler, which must be approved by Recreation Sites and Trails BC, including review by a Ministry of Forests, Lands, Resource Operations and Rural Development Ecosystem Biologist and First Nations.
Grizzly bear recovery
The Province of B.C. has a commitment to recover grizzly bears in the Whistler region, although the recovery plan is not prepared yet. The Province is responsible for both grizzly bear recovery and public safety.
Both the RMOW and Squamish Lillooet Regional District passed resolutions in 2014 supporting grizzly bear recovery. The 2018 trail closures due to grizzly bear-human conflict precipitated development of this plan and have guided responses and improves since it was finalized.
The Grizzly Bear-Human Conflict Mitigation Strategy is just one of several trails initiatives in progress related to the Alpine Trail Program.
The vision for the Grizzly Bear-Human Conflict Mitigation Strategy is:
- Grizzly bears in the Sproatt/Rainbow alpine area are able to effectively utilize their natural habitats without conflict.
- Recreational users:
- are able to enjoy their recreational activities and also understand their roles and responsibilities in learning how to minimize disturbance and avoid encounters with grizzly bears and other wildlife; and
- will comply with necessary recommendations stemming from this strategy, if and when they are needed.
- This strategy is supported by provincial authorities and agencies and the public understands and supports these efforts.
- The strategy is used by municipal and provincial authorities and agencies who are responsible for the plan’s implementation.
Project objectives are to:
Identify actions to minimize:
- human interactions with grizzly bears on alpine trails
- impacts of recreation trail use on grizzly bear habitat and use patterns; and
- Develop a response plan.
The project area and zones include:
- Zone 1: Mount Sproatt
- Zone 2: Rainbow – 21 Mile Creek watershed
- Zone 3: Rainbow – 19 Mile Creek / Skywalk Trail
Grizzly Bear-Human Conflict Mitigation Strategies
The conflict mitigation strategies are organized into four areas:
- Public education and communication
- Planning and trail modifications
- Enforcement and restrictions
- Alpine Trail Ranger Program
Grizzly Bear Response Plan
A response plan was also prepared to provide direction in the event of grizzly bear sightings or conflict.
Similar to the black bear response plan developed in 2016, it lists various scenarios and identifies actions to be taken by the various organizations.
The grizzly bear response plan was included in the 2019 RMOW Bear Response Plan to create one document that covers both grizzly and black bears. It is used by RCMP, Bylaw Services, and Conservation Officer Service staff for training and reference.