New Conservation Officers will Help Protect Bears

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The Province and the District of North Vancouver today announced that they are co-operating in the deployment of two conservation officers with full provincial powers to address the black bear issue on the North Shore.

Katherine Whittred, North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA, Ralph Sultan, West Vancouver-Capilano MLA, and North Vancouver District Mayor Janice Harris have all encouraged the deployment of these conservation officers (COs).

The two new COs will be based in the District of North Vancouver to enhance protection for bears and residents in the District and the City of North Vancouver. They will deal with problem bears and help educate citizens in the best ways to handle wandering bears in their neighbourhoods.

“Having conservation officers assigned to our neighbourhoods will help reduce the number and severity of conflicts such as we experienced last fall and winter between bears and humans,” said Whittred.

Harris added, “I am delighted that our provincial government listened to what our community had to say, and pursued a co-operative approach with the municipality in order to assist in the humanitarian management of our rather large black bear population.”

“We have seen an extraordinary number of black bears looking for food in our neighbourhoods in the past year,” said Sultan. “The North Shore Black Bear Network has been advocating a management approach based on education, rehabilitation, and the reduction of bear attractants. All of us have been dismayed when, in the past, it was deemed necessary to destroy large numbers of black bears, particularly baby bears. So I believe most of us will applaud this new approach.”

The new COs will act as bear response officers, with a number of responsibilities including assessing and responding to bear-human conflicts and providing guidance on methods to reduce the risk of conflict, as well as lessening the number of bear attractants in North Shore neighbourhoods.

The new officers will serve in liaison with community groups such as the Black Bear Network and with provincial and municipal officials. They will also be responsible for deploying non-lethal bear management techniques; for example the use of hazing, which has the potential to discourage bear presence in neighbourhoods and hopefully reduce future bear-human conflicts.

Under a cost-sharing arrangement between the Province and the district, the COs will be deployed during periods of maximum black bear activity, such as the spring and fall months.

Government recently announced the appointment of a new bear response officer for Whistler as well. In addition, the Province’s new $60,000 three-year black bear monitoring and research program should provide helpful data on what works and what does not work in the management of what appears to be a growing black bear population. The Province is also providing $7,500 to fund a bear-hazard assessment program in Squamish.

The appointment of new COs is part of the government’s expansion of the number of park rangers and COs provincewide. Over the next three years, government will invest $16 million to hire park rangers and COs. In addition, the Province has announced the establishment of a B.C. Conservation Corps to provide employment and mentoring opportunities for students.

The Conservation Officer Service is one of the enforcement branches of the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. It works with other professional staff in the ministry to achieve compliance with provincial and federal environmental legislation, including the management of British Columbia’s healthy black bear population.