File photo

File photo

Project could save grizzly bears

The project will be rolled out in early in the spring of 2018

Kitimat has been chosen as the site for a pilot project that might end up saving the lives of grizzly bears in the region.

The Grizzly Bear Foundation’s programs and communications manager Raine Playfair said the foundation’s decision to roll out a project in Kitimat was prompted by the high rate of interaction between the town’s residents and grizzly bears.

“We’ve determined our pilot project will take place in Kitimat, a community ripe for development and experiencing both a high number of human-grizzly interactions and much human-caused grizzly mortality,” said Playfair.

The foundation is Canada’s only charitable organization dedicated solely to the long-term welfare of grizzly bears and began its work in 2016 with a province-wide board of inquiry on grizzly bear issues and solutions.

“We support the preservation of grizzlies through research, public education and conservation,” said Playfair. “The project is about proactively managing human-bear interactions so they don’t lead to conflict.”

She said the close proximity of wildlife to humans in B.C. underscores the importance of giving co-existence “our best effort”.

“This can be challenging, especially with bears, because for many there is an element of fear involved,” said Playfair. “However, utilizing proactive techniques to prevent bears from entering communities should help ease some of that fear, shifting the belief that bears are a threat to humans and their livelihoods.”

Playfair said the project will be rolled out in early in the spring of 2018, extending through to the summer of 2019.

The first phase of the project will consist of preliminary reconnaissance in the area to establish an engagement plan with community partners, local champions, and to develop resources required to pilot the project.

“As a foundation, we look to work collaboratively and believe in community-driven programs,” said Playfair. “If we find that support is low, we may have to reassess how we go about it – our reconnaissance phase will greatly affect what the final project plan looks like.” She said it was important that the foundation develop an understanding of the community’s concerns and aspirations so that a tailor-made approach can be formulated.

“Ideally we’d like to work alongside local champions, as ultimately that will give the project a greater chance of success,” said Playfair.

Once the final project plan is in place, the project’s second phase will focus on educating the public on bear behaviour and training community members to use bear spray and electric fencing in order to reduce human-bear interactions.

“We will integrate these initiatives into the community so they are not abandoned once our project is complete. We will then evaluate whether the pilot effectively mitigated human-bear conflict, and revise the project framework as required to promote efficacy for future efforts.”

She said the foundation will be using a consultancy to engage First Nations and industry to ensure the project is well received by residents of Kitimat and Kitamaat Village.

Playfair encouraged anyone interested in engaging with the foundation to contact her on 604-871-4148, or by email at: rplayfair@grizzlybearfoundation.com

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