Naramata is Bear Smart - Not once, but Twice

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?

Map 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.

2014 Bear Aware Collage

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.

2019 Bear Aware Collage

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 Coordinatorm, Zoe Kirk at: 250-490-4110 or zkirk@rdos.bc.ca