While it’s no surprise that Prince George has a human-bear conflict problem, what may be surprising to know is that Prince George has the highest number of destroyed bears in the province.
Nevertheless, Prince George is still working on becoming a Bear Smart Community and is looking to complete further steps to make the community safer for both bears and people. For example, the city recently began a bear-proof garbage can pilot project in the Hart.
“The 2019 bear resistant residential solid waste cart pilot project is a positive step forward; however, more work is needed in the area of bear smart education, solid waste management, bylaws, and policies to achieve the Provincial Bear Smart status,” explained Dave Dyer, general manager of public works at the April 8 city council meeting.
The City of Prince George has been working towards achieving the Provincial Bear Smart status through an inter-agency partnership with the Conservation Office of British Columbia (COS), Province of British Columbia, Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (RDFFG) and the Northern Bear Awareness Society (NBAS).
They were on hand to present to council the Prince George Bear Smart Status Implementation 2019 Update report, which outlines the progress to date, as well as recommendations to achieve the Provincial Bear Smart status.
“Black bears become food-conditioned and habituated to people and it is a fairly quick process, so if garbage and attractants aren’t managed the bears come into town, they are testing behaviour, they get into garbage and then they become defensive of that garbage,” said COS Sgt. Steve Ackles. “This behaviour leads to the unnecessary destruction of bears within our community.”
Ackles notes that he has relocated to Prince George from Port Alberni, which is a bear smart community.
“I’ve seen it in Port Alberni. The attractant management, when it’s done properly, means we have fewer bears being killed, we have fewer bears being conditioned and habituated and we have a safer community.”
The report includes multiple recommendations that the city still needs to complete, as a part of the process to become a bear smart community.
“The whole goal of this program is to reduce conflict levels,” said NBAS’s Dave Bakker. “We can only reduce conflict levels when we address the attractants or the main causes that bears come in contact with people or the areas that we live in.”
City council unanimously authorized the administration to pursue the recommendations outlined in the report.