In November 2008, a group of concerned citizens and representatives from Mountain View County came together under the guidance of Sustainable Resource Development to seek solutions to human-bear encounters in the county. Mountain View BearSmart was established under the Alberta BearSmart Program as a proactive organization to work within the community to minimize conflict between humans, bears and other wildlife. As a not-for-profit society, Mountain View BearSmart strives to promote bear and wildlife awareness through education, public information, notification systems and works in collaboration with residents, tourists, industry, and government agencies to achieve its goals. Mountain View BearSmart focuses its energy in four areas:
Awareness/Education: to develop and maintain programs and activities that raise awareness about bears, their ecology and habits; reduce human-bear conflicts; and increase human safety in bear country.
During our 1st annual Bear Awareness Week in April 2009, we conducted bear awareness presentations at the schools in Didsbury, Cremona and Sundre with the assistance of officers and staff from Sustainable Resource Development. The kids really enjoyed the Sustainable Resource Development staff who acted like a grouchy black bear and they produced some awesome drawings on bear safety. We had two evenings of guest speakers in Sundre dealing with bear ecology, rancher-bear interactions, and conflict avoidance as well as a family fun day at Elkton Campground with Karelian Bear Dogs, scavenger hunts for the kids, bear proof garbage bins, other activities and displays, snacks of "genuine bear-poo" chocolate, and most importantly, a hamburger lunch. In April 2010, we conducted bear awareness presentations at the schools in Olds and Carstairs, held another bear lecture in Sundre, and the family fun day at Elkton Campground included a lecture by Sundre’s Fish & Wildlife Officer along with a demonstration of a bear trap and various bear deterrents.
Notification/Communication: to develop and maintain systems to advise the community of bear sightings and incidents. Mountain View County created a Mountain View BearSmart site on their homepage to inform the public of bear sightings provided from Sustainable Resource Development. Mountain View BearSmart is now developing its own website. Mountain View County also erected Bear Country road signs on all the Township Roads heading west from Highway 22 to remind resident and all travelers that you are in bear country and to act accordingly. Our most ambitious project is to develop a telephone fan-out notification system.
Risk Hazard Assessment: to identify sites, areas, trails, natural and non-natural foods and attractants, and practices that have historic, existing, and potential human-bear conflict. With the financial support of Sustainable Resource Development, Mountain View BearSmart has conducted door to door interviews with county residents in high bear use areas and is compiling the data to produce their first report.
Membership/Fund Raising: Mountain View BearSmart is always looking for new members. We meet regularly over a potluck supper and brainstorm. You don't need to know a lot about bears, just a willingness to learn and to get involved in the education and notification tasks. Please come out and join us. How can you participate in the Mountain View BearSmart Program? Click Here
In little over one year, it is hard to believe how much impact the group is having on the community. Sustainable Resource Development's Wildlife Biologist, Chiara Feder, believes, "The Mountain View BearSmart group serves as an example on how a community can pull together to make their community safer by reducing human-bear encounters. The group deserves our continued support and praise for their achievements." The Mountain View BearSmart group is one example of the Alberta BearSmart program in action.
Alberta BearSmart is a public awareness program for people visiting, living or working in bear territory. BearSmart helps bear populations survive by educating people on how to prevent bear encounters and how to respond appropriately when an encounter is unavoidable. "Bears and people can share the same landscape," says Russell Stashko, co-chair of the Alberta BearSmart committee. "We need to take responsibility for keeping ourselves safe and preventing wild bears from becoming habituated, problem bears."
Within Alberta, there are several communities working towards the goals of keeping humans safe and bears in the wild. Aside from Mountain View BearSmart, extensive programs currently exist in Canmore, Bragg Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Fort McMurray.
For more information on Alberta BearSmart and bears in general: www.bearsmart.alberta.ca
Other BearSmart programs in Canada:
Bow Valley Corridor, AB www.wildsmart.ca
Whistler, BC www.bearsmart.com