WildSafeBC has returned to the West Coast.
The educational program designed to help residents and visitors co-exist with local wildlife has been absent from the peninsula since 2016, but a coalition that includes the districts of Tofino and Ucluelet, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the West Coast business community has resurrected it this year.
“As we’re well aware, we’re sharing the landscape with a whole host of species of wildlife and, at times, that really does present challenges,” said longtime resident Bob Hansen who has signed on to be the local WildSafeBC coordinator.
“The whole main mandate of the WildSafeBC program is to keep wildlife wild and communities safe…It’s a real concerted effort to reduce preventable conflict.”
Hansen moved to the West Coast roughly 30 years ago and recently retired from the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve where he spent the latter part of his career as a Human Wildlife Co-existence Specialist.
He said he has a “deep love” for the West Coast and was excited to find a way to contribute after his retirement.
“I appreciate having the opportunity to give back to our communities and to this landscape,” he said.
“I really enjoy connecting with people and passing on knowledge and experiences that they may not have…It’s very rewarding to be able to connect with people in that way.”
Hansen said there are currently 25 WildSafeBC coordinators serving 150 communities across B.C. and, as the West Coast’s coordinator, he will serve as a conduit to deliver the program’s educational resources to local residents, businesses and schools
“I’m linked into that network of 25 other coordinators, which gives me access to their experience and knowledge and the experience and knowledge of their communities. That’s a huge well of knowledge to go to,” he said.
He added that, outside of scheduled presentations, he plans to maintain a consistent presence at local events and will be “looking for opportunities to really connect with people one on one.”
Hansen will also proactively seek out concerning behaviours, like locals leaving garbage bins or other attractants unsecured, and hopes to work with staff housing providers to ensure bear-proof garbage containers are being used.
He said locals have an important role to play in ensuring visitors are well informed and he encouragesbusinesses to pass around WildSafeBC pamphlets and to make sure their staff can educate guests about co-existing with wildlife.
“We all in our different capacities in our communities may have different ways of reaching those visitors,” he said. “Take advantage of every opportunity to make the visitors’ experience a rewarding one and a safe one.”
He urges anyone who spots a predator in their community to immediately contact the BC Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help Hansen’s WildSafeBC efforts, or who wants to learn more about the program, is encouraged to reach out to him at 250-266-0311, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the WildSafeBC Pacific Rim Facebook page.