On August 12, 2017 the Fernie Conservation Officer Service (C.O.S.) was forced to destroy two sibling immature cougars, one healthy male and one underweight female, near Island Lake Lodge. The two-and-a-half-year-old cougars were destroyed due to the risk they posed to the general public.
According to a report by WildsafeBC, the two cougars were spotted in the Island Lake Lodge area numerous times on separate occasions within a two-week period. The cougars displayed abnormal behaviour by approaching the public and in one case a member of the public was forced to throw rocks at one of the cougars in order to retreat to safety.
Last week, a cougar sighting was also reported near the off-leash dog park in the Annex, and a grizzly bear was spotted near the Fairy Creek trail about 300 metres from the Visitor Info Centre.
Two grizzly bears were reported feeding on a carcass on Fording River Road in Elkford. A dozen bystanders were taking photos and video, contributing to the habituation of these bears.
“The Elk Valley is a hot spot for recreation and a very desirable place to live,” said WildsafeBC community coordinator, Kathy Murray.
“We choose to live, visit and recreate in prime wildlife habitat. As development, tourism and trail use continue to increase in Fernie and the surrounding Elk Valley so does the potential for human/wildlife conflict.”
Murray also said it is up to us to mitigate human, wildlife conflict as trail users, homeowners, renters, seasonal residents, visitors and developers.
“New developments such as Montane, The Cedars and the newly approved Lizard Creek are located in prime wildlife habitat,” she said.
She believes these developments are an ideal opportunity to set a precedent as Bear Smart Mountain Community Developments, and to ensure that the outside perimeter of Fernie remains a safe place for wildlife and people.
WildSafeBC recommends certified communal bear resistant dumpsters rather than curbside collection for developments and businesses on the outside perimeter in prime wildlife habitat. Bear resistant communal dumpsters have proven successful in preventing human/wildlife conflicts in national parks such as Banff and Jasper and in communities such as Canmore and in Bear Smart BC communities of New Denver and Squamish.
For more information on the Bear Smart Community program go to Env.gov.bc.ca/wld/bearsmart.
WildSafeBC commended several areas in the Fernie area with no recorded incidents of bears accessing garbage are; Pinnacle Ridge and New Horizon Village. Here, garbage is kept secured inside a building. The Timberline Condos have communal bear resistant dumpsters for the strata. Murray also noted that a great example of a “Bear Smart” campground is the Fernie RV Resort, which has bear resistant dumpsters and food lockers for campers. Two bears were destroyed after accessing unsecured garbage near the Castle Mountain Villas within a couple of weeks a few years ago. Since then, they have upgraded to bear resistant dumpsters there have been no bears reported accessing garbage.
“Thanks to all residents who keep their garbage indoors between collection days and to everyone who is making an effort and using innovation to keep garbage inaccessible to wildlife,” said Murray. “The end result will be a cleaner and safer community for wildlife and people.”