Bear aware year wrapped up

Bear aware co-ordinator Sadie Parr updated the Town of Golden council on the past year.

The Golden Bear Aware Program is finished for the season, and co-ordinator Sadie Parr presented a review of the year’s challenges and progress to the Town of Golden council.

“The mandate of Bear Aware is to reduce human/bear conflicts in communities through education, innovation and co-operation,” said Parr.

“Our community really is surrounded by some of the best bear country out there. So we are an island of attractants, surrounded by some great habitat for bears. And I think that the Bear Aware program here will always have its work cut out for it.”

There have been a high number of bear sighting calls (105) this year in Golden, the most since 2008, but Parr says that is not necessarily a bad thing.

“All of our sightings this year, or at lease 90 per cent of them, are actually in the periphery. We are having way fewer bear sightings reported to us in the interior of the community,” she said.

“There have definitely been a lot of sightings this year, but they have been restricted to the fringes.”

This is Parr’s second year in the position, and she is now starting to recognize the trends in the community. One positive trend is the reduction of garbage as an attractant. Comparing data collected between  2006 and 2008, with data collected between 2009 and 2011, showed that bear sighting related to garbage had almost disappeared.

The town bylaw, requiring home owners to place their garbage on curbside for collection no earlier than 6 a.m. on the day of pickup, has a very high rate of compliance, between 96 and 99 per cent.

“As the garbage is becoming less of an attractant, we are seeing a little more (fruit tree and berry) issues. So once we take care of one attractant, another one can crop up,” said Parr.

“We will always be having to deal with something, because bears will continue to move through this valley.”

There have been new initiatives this year to help control reduce the amount of ripe fruit lying around, including the Apple Press Days which used an apple press donated to Bear Aware by one of the volunteers.

Parr hopes that in the future Golden will have some sort of fruit gleaning initiative. As locally grown food and gardening becomes more popular, steps need to be taken to reduce the risk.

Parr also spent a lot of time this year focusing on education and outreach. Precautions are important, but residents still need to know what to do when there is a bear sighting.

“You can take all the precautions, but there are still going to be bears walking through this area because there’s a lot of natural resources for bears and it’s a good place for them to be,” she said.