Bears and Wildlife

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Protecting Bears  |  Black Bears and Grizzly Bears  |  Bear Management  |  Garbage Disposal and Wildlife Attractants Bylaw  |  Bear Food Plants   |  Cougars  |  Resources

The Get Bear Smart Society website is a great source of information about bears and how to keep bears and people safe.

How You Can Help Keep Bears and People Safe

Whistler is bear country and it is important to be aware and be prepared. You can run into a bear almost anywhere, be it on a busy trail close to town or in the more remote backcountry. Bears generally prefer to avoid people. However, encounters between bears and people do occur.

Knowing how to avoid bears and what to do when you see one will help keep you and the bears safe. Here are some key things you can do to help keep bears and people safe:

  • Store all garbage, empties, recycling and compost in wildlife-proof containers or enclosures. Balconies and unlocked garages are not good enough! Check out the new group that picks up and drops off waste for people who don’t have vehicles, click here.
  • Manage attractants – smelly stuff that bring bears into your yard. Clean or put away BBQs – that includes the grease tray. Remove ripe berries and fruit from trees, especially mountain ash. Hang birdfeeders very high off the ground, and clean up the seeds below the feeder.
  • Lock doors and windows to keep bears out.
  • Make bears feel unwelcome outside your home. Scare them away by making loud noises from a safe location. Contact 604.905.BEAR to help track bear activity and keep them safe.
  • If you see a bear, keep your distance. Identify yourself by speaking in a calm tone. Back away slowly and leave the area. Do not stop your car to get a closer look at a bear.

If you see a bear, please phone the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service toll free at 1-877-952-7277 or 604-905-BEAR. 

For general information on bears or to report a garbage or attractant concern, please email

The main reason a bear will come near your home or place of work is for garbage, recycling or other food sources. It is very important (and it's the law in Whistler) to secure garbage and recycling in a wildlife-proof manner and keep other bear attractants clean and/or out of reach, including bird feeders, pet food, barbeques (drip pans/grease cans), and fruit trees/berry bushes. 

It is important for residents, visitors, business owners and property managers to become familiar with bear smart practices in the community.

Black Bears and Grizzly Bears

Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor are home to both black and grizzly bears. Black bears and grizzly bears are two distinct bear species yet can be tricky to tell apart—especially at a quick glance. 

Knowing the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear is helpful information. Find tips on how to tell a black bear from a grizzly bear.

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). In October 2015, the working group became the Whistler Bear Advisory Committee, a select committee of Council that advises RMOW Council on  bear management issues. The membership currently consists of agencies including the RMOW, Get Bear Smart Society, the Conservation Officer Service, and the RCMP.

The members of the Whistler Bear Advisory Committee 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. 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 has implemented the Garbage Disposal and Wildlife Attractants Bylaw as part of its ongoing commitment to being a Bear Smart community and keeping both humans and wildlife safe. A key goal of the bylaw is to provide regulations for waste and wildlife attractant management to help reduce 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 waste depots located at Nesters Road and Function Junction. Check online for local garbage and recycling removal contractors.

Bear Food Plants

To continue to reduce human-bear conflicts, the RMOW and Whistler Bear Working Group has 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 following plants will not be approved for landscape plans requiring municipal approval.

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


Whistler is also cougar country. These large cats generally stay hidden in the landscape and away from humans. 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.
  • Respond aggressively if a cougar shows interest or follows you. 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.
  • Fight back if a cougar attacks. 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, please phone the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service toll free at 1-877-952-7277 or 604-905-BEAR. 

Find more information about cougars.


Get Bear Smart Society - Information on how to Bear Smart your home, what to do when you encounter a bear, bear viewing guidelines, brochures, wildlife smart landscaping, bear smart best practices guide for Whistler Businesses, Bear Smart Program for Restaurants and more.  

BC Parks - bear safety in BC Parks

Parks Canada - bear safety in mountain national parks