Trent Ernst, Editor
WildSafeBC has a Community Coordinator in Tumbler Ridge.
Anthony Moreau-Coulson will be out and about over the summer, attending events and teaching people how to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
WildSafeBC is, a program designed to reduce conflicts throughout the province of BC, but this is the first year for the program in Tumbler Ridge. Moreau-Coulson says his job is education and awareness. “WildSafeBC is completely neutral and non-biased. I don’t do enforcement, it’s strictly education. A lot of people are unaware of what they can do to prevent attracting wildlife.”
The focus of the program is to keep wildlife wild and communities safe, he says. If bears, cougars, coyote, deer, and moose have no reason to come into town, then, WildSafeBC reasons, it will be much safer for the community and for the wildlife.
“I will be out and about within our community going door to door, tending information booths at community events and delivering presentations to anyone interested. Keep an eye out for us at Grizfest music festival along with other events this summer.”
Moreau-Coulson says that most people who stop by the booth get to meet the bear. “I’ll ask them if they’ve ever been this close to one.”
His bear, of course, is not a real one, but a bear skin. He then asks people what the number one attractant is for bears, which is of course, garbage. He then asks whose responsibility it is to keep the bears out of the garbage? “Most people will say it’s the people’s responsibility,” he says.
But it isn’t just garbage that will attract bears. He says that bears eat about 20,000 calories a day. “1 kg of bird seed has same amount of calories as 5 kg of huckleberries,” he says. “So if you’ve got bird food out, you might start attracting bears as well.”
This year, he says, we had a tonne of rain, so we will have lots of berries. “To make sure you have a successful berry season, make lots of noise and carry bear spray,” he says. “Nobody has ever died in an attack was bear spray occurred.”
If you are picking up bear spray, he says, make sure to check the expiry date to make sure there are two years before it expires. And, he says, you can’t just put it in your backpack. “You need to have it easily accessible on a chest holster or belt,” he says. “Keep it on side of dominant hand, so you can use it quickly and effectively.”
He says that bear spray should be transported in the trunk of a vehicle to keep it from getting too hot, as cans have been known to explode in the direct heat. “There are containers to keep it in when transporting it, too.”
He says that, while bears will often leave an area if they sense a human, they have been known to aggressively guard a source of food. “If you see lots of crows in an area, avoid it; can be sign of a kill.”
Moreau-Coulson says he decided to do this after getting laid off from the mining industry. “When everything shut down, I started to look around at what I wanted to do. Digging up the earth was not it. I saw the posting for this position. I was excited to get a position doing this.”
Moreau-Coulson is doing the position as a contract position, putting in about 300 hours over the summer. He hopes to be back in May, doing the job again. “I am focusing on building a positive relationship with community. One of the things I could be doing is going around the night before garbage collection day and tagging garbage, but I am avoiding that. I don’t want to shame people for doing the wrong thing; I want to recognize them for doing the right thing.”
He says a concern right now is the large cougar population. There have been numerous sightings in-town recently. He says he’s heard reports of people who like to feed deer. “Well, the cougar’s main food source is deer, and by bringing the deer into town, it’s a major risk as the cougar might come into town after them.”
He recommends people feed their pets indoors, and keep them inside as much as possible. If a cougar has been sighted in an area, it’s best to keep kids inside, too.
One of the things WildSafeBC is working on, says Moreau-Coulson, is a program called WARP, which stands for “Wildlife Alert Reporting Program. When someone calls a wildlife sighting into the Report All Poachers and Polluters line at 1-877-952-7277, it gets mapped to a website showing where there are conflicts, what the attractant was, etc.”
He says that people can report all non-aggressive wildlife sightings to his Facebook page, at facebook.com/wildsafebcdtr, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also contact him if they have questions or want to book him to make a presentation.
He adds however that calls about wildlife in conflict should go straight to the toll-free, 24 hour reporting line with the BC Conservation Officer Service at 1.877.952.7277
“Ultimately, it’s up to us to change our behavior, because we’re killing these animals. In 1993, there were 1000 bears destroyed a year. That has dropped to around 300. We’ve been getting information out, but it’s the public that’s making the changes, and that’s awesome. We live in an extremely biodiverse habitat; I’m privileged to enjoy these species around here, and enjoy them in the wild, but to keep them wild is up to every citizen in TR.”