Kathy Murray strongly encouraged the District of Sparwood to join the Elk Valley WildSafeBC program in order to properly educate residents about reducing human/wildlife contact.
Murray appeared as a delegate for WildSafeBC at the October 20 council meeting.
“Sparwood residents have identified the need for public education addressing or preventing human/wildlife conflict so far this year,” said Murray. “Six bears have become pre-conditioned and habituated to humans and have had to be destroyed in Sparwood because of concerns for human safety,” she noted.
Other forms of wildlife, including cougars and deer, have also been spotted in Sparwood, often due to residents leaving out attractants, such as garbage, on curbsides.
Murray stressed the importance of the program’s educational services as integral components to the WildSafeBC program. The educational service includes presentations to schools, informative public displays, extensive media coverage and door-to-door campaigning.
“The end result is fewer bears, cougars, deer, coyotes and other wildlife in the community,” said Murray.
The total budget for the regional Elk Valley WildSafeBC program – which provides service from Jaffray to Elkford — is $17,000, and the district would be responsible for a $2,000 contribution to cover operating costs. The program currently runs from May to November, which is peak human/wildlife conflict season, according to Murray.
Approximately 10 days would be spent in Sparwood delivering those educational services.
Murray noted that other communities, like the City of Fernie, have their own dedicated WildSafeBC program, which means more time is spent there as more money is contributed.
“We suggest for Sparwood to start by joining the Elk Valley program as a segue before we can get more funding and support for them to have their own program,” explained Murray. “I think joining the regional program would be a good start.”
Coun. Sonny Saad said, “I think it would be a big mistake if Sparwood didn’t get involved with this program.”
Coun. Sharon Fraser asked if this is a program Sparwood would have to join in subsequent years, or if a trial one year would be acceptable.
Murray explained, “These things take time to be implemented and learn. It isn’t learned overnight. In 2004, there were 40 bears destroyed in Fernie. Now, we’re down to an average of five per year or even none destroyed.”
Murray concluded her presentation by saying, “We have all chosen to work, live, play and grow food in wildlife habitat. With this comes the responsibility to ensure that wildlife remains wild. We’re hopeful that the District of Sparwood will join neighbouring communities and support the WildSafeBC program.”
The WildSafeBC program is currently supported by the Ministry of Environment, Columbia Basin Trust, the City of Fernie, the District of Elkford and the Regional District of East Kootenay.