Smartening up about bears

Trent Ernst, Editor

If you haven’t read the story about the proposal for Tumbler Ridge to become a bear smart community, you’ll need to read it before this makes any sense. Go on. I’ll wait.

Finished?

No you’re not. You’re lying. You just don’t want to go read. Go. Read.

Back?

Excellent.

Catch the last quote? Councillor Howe wants to know how we can have a timelier response to the “bear problem.”

Bear problem.

Problem bears.

Our very language betrays the issue.

We blame the bears for the problem, but it’s not them. It’s not the bears that are the problem. It’s us. As a society. As a community.

We pass the blame and pass the buck, and nothing changes. Next summer there may be more bears. There may be fewer bears. But there will be bears. And if history has taught us one thing it’s that what we’re doing isn’t working.

Translocating bears? Doesn’t work. Shooting the bears? Doesn’t work, because it creates a power vacuum in town, attracting other bears, and we’re left with the same problem.

Hazing bears? Only works if the bears don’t associate the community with food, shelter and safety.

That’s part of the whole pitch for becoming Bear Smart. If we create a community that is safe for the people and not attracting the bears, we can take measures to deal with them, but we have to take those measures. We have to be willing to take those steps.

Bear Smart is a process of becoming. We as a community, as individuals, need to learn how to be bear smart.

This is not something that works with a top down approach. The town can and should legislate best practices, they can impose fines for leaving out bear attractants, but it’s something that also needs to grow from the bottom up.

So, here’s the question: is there anyone out there who is interested in Tumbler Ridge becoming a Bear Smart community? I know everyone says “oh, don’t shoot the bears,” but then do nothing, and the bears get into our trash, into our barbecues, into our crab apple trees, and then they get shot, because by then, it’s too late to trap. To haze. To do anything else.

Building a Bear Smart community doesn’t happen on its own. In most communities that have got the bear smart designation, the movement toward begins with a small group of people who care enough to advocate for reducing human-bear conflicts in their communities.

I know there are people out there who care. Who are willing to figure out the best practices and, well, practice them.

The first step, says the Bear Smart website, “is to gather together some like-minded locals who share a vision for a more bear-friendly community. The success of small, grassroots organizations almost always depends on the passion and commitment of one or two individuals, but it also requires the buy-in, support and commitment of a diverse team that can help get the work done.” So, is anyone out there willing to put … not their money, but their time, their effort, into making Tumbler Ridge a safer place for both the people and the wildlife?

I would. So if there is anyone willing, contact me at editor@tumblerridgenews.com .