A conversation with WildSafe BC coordinator Kathy Murray

WildSafe BC community coordinator, Kathy Murray, shares her thoughts on the upcoming season.

The WildSafe BC program in the Elk Valley isn’t set to start for another month yet, but that doesn’t mean its community coordinator, Kathy Murray, isn’t getting prepared for another season.

The Free Press caught up with Murray to ask her about the program and what she hopes to see in the upcoming year.

Bear aware programs

Last year, Murray ran a pilot project regarding Bear in Area signs to warn residents if there was a bear in their neighbourhood. She says she was happy with the results and hopes to continue the program this year.

“I would try to strategically place the signs where they were quite visible to the people who live in that neighbourhood, but also just to passers-by,” she said.

“When I was putting the signs up, people would stop the car and start asking questions, so it was a great opportunity to explain about the bear and the reason the bear was in the area and that we attracted it here. It was interesting how that worked really well. At one stage, we had bears all over town and I ran out of signs.”

Murray says these signs provide an opportunity to talk to residents and it’s a more effective alternative than going door-to-door.

“I’m certainly going to continue with the signs because going door-to-door is an enormous task. This is more of a general area and it gets the message out to second homeowners or visitors.”

Education is part of the mandate for WildSafe, and Murray is going to continue her efforts to inform the public of the dangers of attracting bears into their neighbourhoods.

“We are going to pretty much carry on the same with education because our program is primarily public education. And as long as we have new bears and new people in town, there is a need for education,” she said.

Murray applauds residents who group together to combat the issues, such as apple pick programs. However, she says ideally, the focus would be on people who need assistance.

“I would certainly like to facilitate that and encourage people to do that but I think the big thing with that is I really hope that the efforts go to the people who really need it – to seniors or disabled people. Not just people that are just ‘oh hey, let’s get the volunteers to come and pick my apples’,” she said.

Overall, Murray is thankful for residents who continue the bear conversation with their friends and neighbours, as this helps to raise awareness.

“The bottom line is I just want to say thanks to everyone who has made an effort to clean up their backyards, manage their wildlife attractants, comply with bylaws. Just encourage your families, friends and neighbours to do the same. Together we can all make a difference. We have to get everyone on board.”

Spring wildlife

As the snow starts to melt, new wildlife can be seen venturing in areas close to Fernie. Murray suggests everyone be on the look out for a variety of animals, including bears, moose and cougars, among others.

While there are different methods for dealing with different species, a general rule for all wildlife is to never approach or feed wildlife, and if there is an alternative route to take to avoid an encounter with wildlife, use it.

“The best thing you can do, especially hiking, biking, or walking is just to make noise to warn wildlife of your presence so they know you are there. If you see wildlife, stop, back away and choose an alternative route, if you can,” she said. “Being aware – if you’re out going for a run on Stumpy’s Trail and you have the iPod, do you know what’s going on? Be on guard, carry bear spray and know how to use it.”

Bear spray can be used in defence with other species, including cougars, which are stalker animals and like to approach from behind.

“With cougars, you stop, stand your ground and remain calm, but you want to appear as a threat. You want to make yourself look large, use your voice in a loud and assertive way, back away slowly. If a cougar approaches, defend yourself with sticks or rocks, if you’ve got bear spray use it,” said Murray.

Moose are another species that can be frequently seen in the area. As bigger animals, it’s important to remember that their size can be a hindrance to them.

“Moose can be very unpredictable, and we have moose and moose calves everywhere,” said Murray. “With moose, the best thing to do is if you can, get behind a tree. Remember moose can run, they can swim, but they can’t climb trees.”

Murray says that when encountering wildlife, it’s best to stay as calm as possible.

“Behaviour breeds behaviour. If you scream and start to get agitated, it will think you’re prey.”

Communication with the public

Murray, who has operated the WildSafe BC program in the Elk Valley since 2005, welcomes conversation and dialogue regarding wildlife in the area with the public. Besides the information that is available on the WildsafeBC.com website, Murray has a Facebook page and a Twitter account for up-to-date information.

Along with the online presence, Murray also sets up information booths at community events.

“At the community events, it is amazing the number of people I talk to. I chat to all of the vendors, and then I have my stand set up and people come by and it is a good opportunity in a formal way to talk about wildlife issues.”

Murray will also come to speak to any interested parties regarding healthy wildlife habits, and has done so for groups like Scouts Canada and Island Lake Lodge.

“I certainly talk to different groups of interest,” she said. “For sure, I’m happy to do that. Even on an individual basis, if people are new, they can contact me. I’m very happy to talk to them.”


Just Posted

Fires highlight need for more volunteers

Short-staffed volunteer fire departments in Elk Valley, South Country rely on mutual aid

Motorcyclist grateful to be alive, thanks fellow drivers

Over a dozen people stopped to assist Lori Hann after she tumbled off her bike on Hwy 3, Saturday

Local athletes ready for BC Summer Games

Twenty-four athletes from the Elk Valley and South Country will compete at the 2018 BC Summer Games.

GearHub staff staying positive after fire

Sporting goods store to fully reopen by end of July

UPDATE: New lead narrows the search for Serval cat

UPDATE, July 17: A new lead has narrowed the search for Aquila… Continue reading

BC Games: Day 1 comes to an end

Medals have already been handed out following one day of competition in the 2018 BC Summer Games

The Free Press editor wins awards

Editor Phil McLachlan has been recognized at the 2018 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards.

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Crosswalk vandalism leaves black mark for Cowichan as B.C. Games begin

Rainbow crosswalk defaced just days after being painted

Photo gallery: BC Games Day 1

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

UPDATED: Anti-pipeline campers digging in as eviction deadline expires

The City of Burnaby had ordered the Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters out for violating bylaws

Trump was taped talking of paying Playboy model: AP source

Source says former personal lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded discussion prior to 2016 election

Most Read