WildSafeBC Pacific Rim coordinator Bob Hansen is calling on West Coast residents to educate themselves and their visitors about securing wildlife attractants and preventing predators from becoming addicted to residential or commercial garbage.
Two bears have been killed after becoming habituated around Ucluelet so far this year and recent reports suggest another bear has been accessing a commercial dumpster near the harbour, according to Hansen.
“We share exactly the same space on the landscape and it’s something that we just have to eventually get right,” he said. “I’ve seen improvement over the years, but we still have quite a ways to go. We’re making progress and it’s challenging at times for sure, particularly when we receive over a million visitors. That’s a lot of people to educate and I’m really looking to the residents to be the educators.”
He said West Coasters have an important role to play to both educate themselves on securing their attractants and to share that knowledge with their guests.
“It’s essential,” he said. “All of those thousands of points of contacts that are happening everyday are opportunities to get that information across. That’s going to make the visitors experience richer and safer for our local wildlife and for them. So, it’s very powerful if we can make sure we’re informed ourselves and that we pass that knowledge on in our interactions with visitors.”
He added that cougar and wolf activity has been relatively low so far this year, but he anticipates an increase in sightings due to the proliferation of young deer walking around town.
“Wolves have been much less active than they have been in past years to this point but, there were three wolves sighted during the day down at Big Beach just a few days ago, so I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more wolf activity, particularly with all the new fawns,” he said.
Hansen has been reaching out to residents through his social media channels and at public events as well as working with local groups like the Wild Pacific Trail Society and Raincoast Education Society to spread the message about keeping predators away from residential neighbourhoods.
“The WildSafeBC Program uses education and other initiatives to keep wildlife wild and communities safe,” he said. “It’s just trying to be out in the communities as much as possible and working with people to try and head things off before they’re a problem.”
He added he frequently posts sighting reports to his WildSafeBC Pacific Rim Facebook page as well as information about what people can do to minimize wildlife encounters. He added that he is always willing to work one-on-one with residents and businesses to hash out strategies.
“I see a high interest in reaching out and taking that step to initiate the conversation with people. They may have been concerned or just not quite sure on how to proceed. Reaching out and initiating that conversation, I almost always find that people are really receptive. They’ve just been struggling with how they can take steps themselves, so by putting our heads together we can work on that,” he said. “I think people in our communities fundamentally care about wildlife because, for many, that is the reason we’re living here, because of the incredible environment and the abundance of wildlife. It’s a really special place here on the coast and it’s an economic engine of our economies that not only we appreciate it, but people from around the world appreciate it and are coming here.”
The West Coast temporarily lost its local WildSafeBC program in 2016, but local wildlife supporters pooled together to bring the program back last year.
“The communities really came through,” he said adding Black Rock Resort, Ocean Outfitters, Jamie’s Whaling Station, Wickaninnish Inn, the districts of Tofino and Ucluelet, Pacific Rim Park Reserve and Clayoquot Biosphere Trust were integral in the program’s return.
READ MORE: Tofino and Ucluelet lose WildSafe program
“The reason the program exists is all that local support,” he said.
He said the program will likely run into October this year and anyone interested in volunteering should reach out to him at 250-266-0311, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the WildSafeBC Pacific Rim Facebook page.
“I would be keen to have some extra help,” he said, adding he’s confident the region can improve its attractant management and cut down on wildlife conflicts. “We’ve got lots of challenges but, I think, we’re definitely up for it. There’s a lot of initiatives going on in our region around getting this relationship right between ourselves and the wildlife we share this landscape with.”