Call for more bear education in Whistler as community gears up for return of tourists

Click to play video: 'Whistler locals notice more close encounters with bears' Whistler locals notice more close encounters with bears
WATCH: Locals in Whistler say they've been seeing more bears lower on the mountain and closer to the village, as a result of the pandemic – Jun 18, 2021

Whistler, B.C., residents say they’re seeing an increase in close encounters with bears lower on the mountains and near to the village — and many feel the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse.

Global News cameras visited the area on Friday and found three bears just steps from a popular trail in the resort community.

Read more: Public being urged to manage wildlife attracts after bear is put down in Kelowna

A spokesperson for the municipality said there does not seem to be more sightings, and “there are no urgent bear issues,” but a former member of Whistler ‘Bear Smart’ is challenging that statement.

“We are seeing more bears. Because we were all locked up, it kind of makes sense they all came out,” Tina James said.

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“They’ve become braver because people weren’t out walking their dogs.”

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service did not respond to a Global News request for comment by the publication deadline.

Click to play video: 'Staying safe from wildlife on backcountry trails' Staying safe from wildlife on backcountry trails
Staying safe from wildlife on backcountry trails – May 25, 2021

With travel restrictions lifted and a significant increase in tourists expected in the area, James wants to see more education and prevention efforts, including signage and pamphlets to address the issue before it develops into conflicts.

Read more: Coquitlam family snoozes through ‘bear and enter’ as pair of bruins break into car, garage

“People and bears together often literally mean a dead bear, and none of us want that,” she said.

“Burying our heads in the sand isn’t going to help anything. So we need to bring awareness to people coming from out of town what to do and how to behave, and to acknowledge this is [the bears’] home.”
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Residents and visitors are reminded never to approach bears, not to pull over in vehicles to photograph them and never to leave food or other attractants out where bears can be drawn to them.

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