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:

  1. Manage your garbage and recyling so that bears cannot access it. Put all garbage and recycling in wildlife-proof containers or enclosures. See Whistler's Garbage Disposal and Wildlife Attractants Bylaw for more details.
  2. Manage other attractants such asbarbeques, bird feeders and fruit/berry bushes. Keep them clean or out of reach, so as not to tempt bears to hang around human-inhabited areas.
  3. Hike, bike and camp in a Bear Smart manner. Make lots of noise to avoid surprising bears, travel in groups, and always secure your food and other attractants well out of reach. Learn more.
  4. Keep your picnic or camp site attractant-free.
  5. Avoid bears. Never approach a bear.
  6. If you see a bear, keep your distance, back away slowly and leave the area. Report the sighting to the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277 or 604-905-BEAR.
  7. Know what to do in case of an encounter by learning more about bears and their behaviour. Learn more.
  8. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Learn more.
  9. Keep your dog on a leash. Dogs can provoke defensive and dangerous behaviour in bears.
  10. Stay clear of dead wildlife. Carcasses attract bears; leave the area immediately if you come across a dead animal.
  11. Slow down if you are driving and see a bear on the roadside. It's tempting to stop and watch but moving on is safer for bears and other traffic.
  12. Never feed 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). 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 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. 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