Bears and

Bears and Research
in the Canadian

Bears and

Bears and

Bears and

Bears and

Bear Paw Print Living With Bears: 
Learning to Compromise
Bear Paw Print
Bears and People

A variety of innovative initiatives to prevent and/or reduce bear-human conflict are operating in the Canadian Rockies and adjacent areas. This section profiles three selected projects, and includes links to their websites for more detailed information. 

Living with Wildlife
The Living With Wildlife program was created in 1997 by the Friends of Banff National Park and Parks Canada in response to the problem of roadside habituation. It’s primary objectives are:

  • public education
  • public safety
  • a reduction in roadside bear habituation

To achieve these goals, the project consists of:

  • “mobile crews responsible for attending wildlife jams as they occur along scenic parkways in the park. Crews manage traffic, promote safe behaviour around wildlife, and directly educate visitors on what they can do to prevent bear habituation” … 
  • informal roadside pull-out presentations and formal evening presentations; these presentations also focus on educating visitors about preventing bear habituation.

In the 1998 and 1999 seasons alone, Living With Wildlife had direct contact with more than 45 000 people, and responded to 375 bears jams. Only 19% of the bear jams attended in 1999 had been previously reported to the Banff National Park Warden Service, meaning that 81% of the jams may have been unattended if Living With Wildlife crews had not been roving.

(Source for all: The Friends of Banff National Park 2000)

Bear Aware
The Bear Aware program (formally known as “the Bear Awareness Program”) was initiated in 1996 by the Revelstoke Bear Committee in Revelstoke, British Columbia. It was “adopted” by the British Columbia Conservation Foundation in 1998 and since this time has expanded to include many other communities in the province.

The primary goals of the Bear Aware program are:

  • “to have human communities that have a minimal impact on the health and population dynamics of bear populations throughout the province”
  • to have virtually no urban bear-human conflicts in BC each year”

To achieve these goals, Bear Aware works with community residents, businesses and all levels of government on the following:

  • ensuring that unnatural attractants (e.g., garbage, pet foods, fruit trees etc) are made unavailable to bears
  • fostering a “pragmatic understanding, appreciation and tolerance of bears”
  • integrating “bear considerations into…community and regional planning and bylaws”

(Source for all above: British Columbia Conservation Foundation 2000)

The success of Bear Aware is evident in the reduced numbers of bears that had to be destroyed by Conservation Officers in Revelstoke since its implementation. In 1995 over 30 bears were destroyed; this was down to only 1 in 1997 and 4 in 1998, despite a relative scarcity of natural bear foods in both of those years. (Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, British Columbia 1999)

Partners in Life
The Partners in Life Program is run by the Wind River Bear Institute (WRBI) based in Heber City, Utah. Its primary objective is “to develop long-term solutions for bear-human conflicts by teaching humans and bears correct behaviours, so that initial or subsequent conflicts are prevented”.

To achieve this objective, the Partners in Life Program implements what WRBI director and bear biologist Carrie Hunt calls “bear shepherding”.

The [Partners in Life] Program “shepherds” bears in a unique approach that utilizes highly trained KBDs [Karelian Bears Dogs] in combination with other tools such as red pepper spray, rubber bullets and on-site trap releases…to modify bear behaviour so that problem bears do not need to be relocated or destroyed.

As well as being employed to help teach bears the lessons of aversive conditioning, Karelian Bear Dogs can:  track and find bear sign, investigate conflict sites, warn or determine if a bear is in the area, locate orphaned cubs and vehicle/train-hit bears, etc. They also help to “break the ice” and open up conversations about the need to clean up attractants or correct other human behaviours which can have negative consequences for bears and people.

The success of this approach depends on the “partnering” of the bears, the public, bear management agencies, and WRBI’s teams of biologists and Karelian Bear Dogs. The partnership works in the following way:

Problem bears are taught to behave properly and the public is educated to behave in a manner that prevents bear problems and their reoccurrence…Agency personnel are trained to employ effective “teaching” techniques for both bears and people and the WRBI teams work to develop the bear shepherding methodology and educate their “partners”.

The Partners in Life Program has operated in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, on private and provincial lands in Southwestern Alberta, and in many locations in the western USA.  Efforts are currently underway to establish an arm of WRBI and the Partners in Life Program in Southwestern Alberta.

(Source for all:  Wind River Bear Institute 2000)

Footnotes and Sources Cited

Bears: Year 2000 and Beyond Bears: Imagination and Reality
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