Naramata Bear Smart - A Good News Story
Naramata is Bear Smart, not once but twice
Naramata was the 7th community in all of BC to achieve Bear Smart Status in 2014.
Where is Naramata?
What is a Bear Smart Community?
The Bear Smart Community program has been designed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. It is a voluntary, preventative conservation measure that encourages communities, businesses and individuals to work together.
The goal is to address the root causes of human-bear conflicts, thereby reducing the risks to human safety and private property, as well as the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year. This program is based on a series of criteria that communities must achieve in order to be recognized as being "Bear Smart". The responsibility to manage human-bear conflicts rests with everyone; Bear Smart will require participation from the provincial government, municipal governments, and local citizens to be successful.
How did Naramata get there?
Starting back in 2011, RDOS WildSafe BC worked with the community, to meet the (criteria Bold word)for Bear Smart Status. The whole community, including the local elementary school, library, and businesses came together and participated to encourage behavioural changes, educate themselves and their neighbours on reducing human-bear conflict. They wanted to stopo the destruction of bears (6-7 per year) that were a result of bears accessing or becoming habituated to garbage. The Naramata 'Welocome Committee' who welcomes new residents to Naramata began inlcuding the full spectrum of WildSafe BC materials, bear education and local Bylaws in their welcome packages. The RDOS met the criteria through changing curbside Bylaws, adding bear resistant cart options, outreach education and phased installation or upgrade of Parks facilities. Happily, and with great ceremony the hamlet was awarded Bear Smart Status on June 14th, 2014.
Renewal of Bear Smart Status
Jump ahead five years to 2019. In order to retain Bear Smart status, the Ministry of Environment Wildlife Conflict Management Branch and memebers of the BC Conservation Officer Service returned to re-access the community; to insure all 6 criteria were continuing to be followed. They also assessed new innovations like additional and improved signage and Bear Smart sculptures put up at the school and local Park. Once the 'incognito' on-the-ground assessments and resident interviews were complete, the Bear Smart Team also met with RDOS Board Chair, Karla Kozakevich and RDOS utilities staff to review the revised an updated Naramata Bear Management Plan, discuss their findings, next steps and for the RDOS to provide them feedback on any challenges the community faced since gaining statis in 2014.
Once the Ministry reviewed reports, assessments and interviews, Naramata was once agian awarded Bear Smart Status for another 5 years! The 2019 celebration included a large indigenous component, with local Elders and Knowledge Keepers who spoke to the importance of Chief Black Bear, one of 4 Food Chiefs, to the Sylix people.
The Benefits of Bear Smart Status?
It is hard to put a dollar value on community safety, and impossible to interview local wildlife and bears for their perspective. The immediate and continuing benfits observed as the community worked towards Bear Smart Status and beyond are:
- Reduced refuse and litter being spread along roadsides as garbage cans were secured until morning of pick-up or unable to be opened by any animials or bears
- Residents were thrilled that dogs could not tip cans over and crows could not have access
- Reductions of calls to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) regarding human-bear conflict
- Bear destructions reduced from 6 - 7 per annum to 1 every 2.5 years (and often that is due to a bear being unthrifty or ill)
- Changes to attractant management practices by property owners to reduce available un-natural food sources
- Fewer calls to the COS RAPP Line regarding 'sightings' or non conflict issues, as residents became 'bear behaviour educated' and understood annual patterns and helped educate others
- Not every bear is an issue as long as it moves through and does not loiter
- A sense of community pride - priceless!
For more information on this program or Bear Conflict reduction, contact RDOS WildSafeBC Community Coordinator at 250-492-0237.
Naramata Receives Bear Smart Status in June 2014 - A Good News Story
Naramata is the 6th Community in BC to achieve and be awarded the prestigious designation of Bear Smart Status by BC’s Ministry of Environment.
Naramata is situated on the shores of Lake Okanagan in a largely agricultural community with a village core that straddles a Kokanee Salmon bearing creek, putting it right in the middle of prime bear habitat. The population of just over 2400 also is a tourist mecca, receiving thousands of guests each summer to enjoy the relaxed pace, beautiful beaches and abundant accommodation opportunities. Naramata’s location and level of bear awareness made it a hot spot for Conservation Officer bear complaint calls. On an average, 6 to7 bears were destroyed each year in that community as they became habituated to humans and their waste.
In 2010, the Electoral Area Director became so concerned about these escalating issues that the Bear Aware Program was initiated to help residents understand the correlation to attractants and bear issues. Over the next three years, RDOS Bear Aware (now WildSafeBC) worked closely with residents, commercial, agricultural entities and the school to reduce the incidence of wildlife conflict in the area. The Regional District changed its garbage pick-up day to better align with Bear Smart principles and imposed a Bylaw which restricts residents to placing garbage to the curb on the morning of the day of pick-up only. The local waste contractor provided the option to obtain bear proof garbage containers – starting with a free three-month pilot program. The WildSafeBC Community Coordinator worked through all 6 criteria http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/bearsmart/#second_ for bear smart status, submitting the application reports and documents required. BC Ministry of Environment Wildlife Conflict Manager reviewed all documentation, conducted an independent, undisclosed audit in the community and then made recommendations to senior government officials for their decision.
On June 23rd 2014, at a well-attended community celebration, Naramata was awarded Bear Smart Status By the Ministry of Environment and the Conservation Officer Service. Federal, Provincial and local government politicians along with many on and off-duty Conservation Officers from across the Interior came to show their support for the efforts made by the community to achieve Bear Smart status. They congratulated and encouraged the community to continue its commitment to attractant management to maintain the status over time.
Photos of Bear Smart Celebration
1- Dignitaries with Naramata Elementary students showing off their hand carved soapstone bears
2- RDOS WildSafeBC Coordinator Zoe Kirk with Chief of BC CO Service Doug Forsdick (on her left) and representatives from the CO Service
3- RDOS WildSafeBC Coordinator Zoe Kirk with MP Dan Albas
4- MP Dan Albas and MLA Dan Ashton congratulating a student on her bear sculpture
5- Bear proof garbage cans full of stuffed bears
Bear Smart signage is now posted throughout the community, starting with the single road entrance to the community and in all parks and public spaces. The school children are big Bear Smart enthusiast and actively promote their knowledge and understanding about the wildlife with which they share their ecosystem.
The Bear Smart/WildSafeBC program began seeing immediate results starting right from 2012 – with calls to the Conservation Officer Reporting Line declining, and lack of the need to destroy any bears in that community. In fact, since 2012, only 2 unthrifty bears have been destroyed. Are there fewer bears? No. Residents have learned how to protect their community through attractant management, understanding bear behaviors and drivers and modifying their actions accordingly. Bear Smart is not just a one day celebration, but an ongoing commitment that is monitored by the Ministry of Environment. If things change and residents become complacent about attractants, the status can be revoked. Naramata is an inspiration. Residents have demonstrated what a community can achieve when they work together. For documentation and application details:
1. Action Item Matrix Appendix 2
2. Bear Smart Application Sept 2013 F
3. Naramata Bear Hazard Assessment
4. Naramata Bear Management Plan 2013