Bears and Wildlife

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Protecting bears | Bear management | Cougars Garbage Disposal and Wildlife Attractants bylaw | Bear food plants

What You Can Do To Protect Bears

Information on how to Bear Smart your home, what to do when you encounter a bear, bear viewing guidelines and more is available on the Get Bear Smart Society website.

You can also download brochures for visitors, residents and businesses. Many brochures come in other languages as well. Topics include: Bear Smart Whistler Resident’s Guide; Wildlife Smart Landscaping for Whistler – A Resident’s Guide and A Professional’s Guide; Composting in Bear Country; Bear Smart Whistler Visitor’s Guide;  Bear viewing: Where to find bears and how to behave while viewing them; Bear Smart Guide for Campers; Bear Smart Best Practices Guide for Whistler Businesses; Bear Smart Program for Restaurants; Bear Smart Construction Site Management Strategy – Staying safe while building in bear country – a bear smart guide for constructions sites in Whistler; Guidelines for Bear Smart Buildings – Suggestions and regulations on building structures in bear country.

If you see a bear near homes or playgrounds, or in a conflict situation, phone the provincial call centre at 1-877-952-7277. 

For general information, or to report a garbage or attractant situation, send an email to bearsmart@whistler.ca

The main reason a black bear will come near your house is for garbage, recycling and other food sources. It is important for residents to lock up their refuse and keep other bear attractants out of a bear's reach. These include bird feeders, pet food, BBQs (drip pans/grease cans), and fruit trees/berry bushes.

Whistler also enforces the bear smart bylaw to address attractant concerns including garbage and landscape vegetation. It is important for property managers, residents and visitors to become familiar with the bylaw and bear smart practices in the community.

It is also important to avoid bears. The best way to keep people and bears safe is to avoid close contact. When you're in the forest or on a trail, make lots of noise, travel in groups, and always secure your food and other attractants well out of reach of bears. If you see a black bear on the trail, back slowly away and leave the area.

Cougars

Whistler is also cougar country. They generally stay hidden in the landscape, but if you do encounter a cougar:

  • Stay calm and keep the cougar in view.  Pick up children immediately - children frighten easily, the noise and movements they make could provoke an attack.  Back away slowly, ensuring that the animal has a clear avenue of escape.  Make yourself look as large as possible.  Keep the cougar in front of you at all times.
  • Never run or turn your back on a cougar.  Sudden movement may provoke an attack.
  • If a cougar shows interest or follows you, respond aggressively.  Maintain eye contact with the cougar, show your teeth and make loud noise.  Arm yourself with rocks or sticks as weapons.  Crouch down as little as possible when bending down to pick up things off of the ground.
  • If a cougar attacks, fight back.  Convince the cougar you are a threat and not prey.  Use anything you can as a weapon.  Focus your attack on the cougar's face and eyes.

If you see a cougar, phone the provincial call centre at 1-877-952-7277.

For more cougar information, click here.

Bear Management In Whistler

The first Whistler Bear Working Group was formed in 1996 to provide a coordinated approach to minimizing human-bear conflicts in the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW).

After restructuring in 2012, the membership consists of agencies including the RMOW, Get Bear Smart Society, the Conservation Officer Service, and the RCMP.

The members of the Whistler Bear Working Group strive to:

  • Develop and help implement creative community-based solutions for minimizing human-bear conflicts;
  • Provide a forum for sharing information and resolving divergent views, and enabling coordinated responses to requests for information;
  • Participate in the evaluation of non-lethal bear management techniques and provide feedback to the partners; and
  • Provide a coordinated approach to community outreach and communications regarding the activities of the Working Group.

Many positive outcomes have been achieved towards the goal of minimizing human-bear conflicts, and in 2011, Whistler was recognized by the Ministry of Environment as one of the first Bear Smart Communities in the province.

Being a bear smart community means Whistler is committed to incorporating long-term bear smart practices into the community’s waste infrastructure, educational programs and residents’ lifestyles.

This is a community-driven initiative that requires continuous and cooperative efforts to further reduce human-bear conflicts. Only a few other B.C. communities have achieved this designation including the Village of Lions Bay, Squamish, Port Alberni and Kamloops. 

Garbage Disposal and Wildlife Attractants Bylaw

Whistler implemented the Garbage Disposal and Wildlife Attractants Bylaw as part of its ongoing commitment to being a Bear Smart community.

A key goal of the bylaw is to provide regulations for waste and wildlife attractant management that will contribute to reducing human-bear conflict.

The bylaw states that:

  • Every owner or occupier of a commercial, industrial, institutional and tourist accommodation building shall provide a garbage storage site located inside a building or within a wildlife proof enclosure.
  • Single family and multiple family residential development having twelve or more dwelling units shall provide a garbage storage site located inside a building or within a wildlife proof enclosure or within a wildlife resistant container.
  • No person shall store, handle or dispose of wildlife attractants in a way that they are accessible to wildlife.

The RMOW prepared a set of guidelines for the construction of wildlife proof enclosures to assist Whistler residents in building an appropriate structure.  Contact the RMOW Building Department for more information on the permitting process.

Residents without cars can find it challenging to dispose of their garbage and recycling at the municipal compactor sites located at Nesters Road and Function Junction. Check online for garbage and recycling removal contractors.

Bear Food Plants

In order to continue to reduce human-bear conflicts in Whistler, in 2013 the RMOW and Whistler Bear Working Group identified a short list of plants that are particularly attractive to bears and serve to draw them into areas where the plants are located. The plants on the list include:

  • Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain Ash, single stem tree),
  • Sorbus sitchensis (Mountain Ash, shrub, multi-stem),
  • Vaccinium (blueberries & huckleberries) and
  • Clover. 

These plants will no longer be approved for landscape plans that require municipal approval.