Cumberland has been making progress in reducing human interactions with wildlife in recent years.
Last year, once again no bears suffered because of interactions with the community.
“There were no bears destroyed in the Village this year,” said Cali Barton, the WildSafeBC coordinator for Cumberland, during her 2019 annual report to council Monday.
There was a slight increase though in black bear sightings and encounters.
In her executive report, Barton highlights there has been a trend toward less human-wildlife conflict since the program was established in the community in 2016.
There is still work to be done though. Some people are still leaving out garbage that can attract bears. Barton noted instances where she had to tag bags to let people know they need to be more aware of the potential problem.
“The most common attractant for bears has always been garbage,” she told council.
They did bag-tagging over 20 nights from February to November and covered about 1,800 residences. Typically, they would find a low number of infractions on the night before garbage pickup, usually three or four. In one case, they tagged 15 bins. However, she pointed this was the exception, as in general people have been open to the program. She also pointed out ticketing by the bylaw department has been an effective way to get people to comply.
Other challenges include getting people to compost properly, avoid leaving pet food outside and make sure fruit is gleaned from their properties.
A large part of what the WildSafeBC program does is public education. Some of this takes place with children at the Cumberland Community School.
In all, they made 14 presentations throughout the year to a total of 290 people, while 180 children participated in the WildSafe Ranger program through which kids gain wildlife knowledge and share it with their families.
‘It’s so great to see the kids so excited to learn,” she said.
As well, the WildSafeBC booth was set up at events, and Barton estimates they reached at least 850 people this way.
Barton did caution that bear interaction statistics are only based on reported sightings and not other cases where people do not make reports, so a challenge remains in getting people to make reports.
“Only the reported sightings end up in the stats,” she said. “It’s not always a complete picture of what’s going on.”
Ultimately, the community is working toward Bear Smart Community Status. As part of this, last spring a hazard assessment was approved, and with support from Village council and staff, a management plan is now underway.
Council was pleased to see the progress last year, as some recalled that only four years ago, several bears were destroyed because of interactions. Coun. Jesse Ketler said the community has responded to the creation of the program.
“I think it really rallied the community,” she said.
Mayor Leslie Baird thanked Barton and credited the program for the fact that no bear has been destroyed in the last three years.
“You’ve made a huge difference to the community,” she said.