Open Letter: Minister Of Environment Heyman

The BC Bear Alliance would like to introduce ourselves and thank you for the recent creation of two new positions to assist with enforcement of wildlife attractant and conflict-reduction laws in the province.

Formed this year, the BC Bear Alliance is a collection of more than two dozen general member groups that will address key issues identified as challenges to human-bear coexistence and bear conservation, and present solutions to BC provincial and municipal governments and other stakeholders.

As a leading authority on human-bear coexistence, our vision is to provide a unified voice for those advocating on behalf of bears, ensuring that our collective recommendations are received with respect and given due and careful consideration.

We have identified nine priorities on our website (bearalliance.com), all of which involve assisting the people of British Columbia to coexist with bears and share the same habitats. As a new organization with a wealth of collective expertise, experience and skill sets, we welcome an opportunity to learn how we can assist the Ministry of Environment in addressing the need for increased enforcement of wildlife feeding and attractant-related legislation province-wide.

Early news of two Wildlife Safety Officers being hired is promising and exciting. We look forward to learning the details of these roles, how they’ll assist in much-needed enforcement and what support we can lend this project. As is clearly documented in available literature and recent surveying of residents, increased enforcement is a necessary step to reducing bear deaths in British Columbia.

We look forward to working with you and sharing strategic solutions to ensure Super Natural British Columbia is a safe home for all of its residents.

Sylvia Dolson and Christine Miller, Co-chairs, BC Bear Alliance

 

RESPONSE:

Reference: 378190

July 6, 2021

Sylvia Dolson, Co-Chair and Christine Miller, Co-Chair BC Bear Alliance

Email:  bcbearalliance@gmail.com

Dear Sylvia Dolson and Christine Miller:

Thank you for your email of May 24, 2021, regarding the creation of your recently formed organization. I apologize for the delay in responding.

I appreciate that you have reached out to ensure we are aware of your organization and its objectives regarding human-bear interactions, co-existence, conflicts and enforcement in B.C. I understand numerous conservation officers already have relationships with many of the groups involved.

I share your desire to help ensure human actions do not lead to bears entering communities in ways that lead to conflicts; whether that is by building on public education and outreach efforts or working with municipalities to enact bylaws around garbage collection or the feeding of wildlife. The last thing any of us want to see is the destruction of any bear, but as I’m sure you can understand, public safety is a priority in the mandate for the Conservation Officer Service (COS).

I know the COS works hard to build and foster relationships with our partners and stakeholders that share our mission, vision and values of protecting and conserving B.C.’s wildlife, fish and natural resources. Conservation officers routinely connect with bear advocacy groups in their regions and often field questions from regular contacts.

We recognize the importance of working together to help communities stay informed and invested, as everyone has a role to play when it comes to reducing human-wildlife conflicts. Our Wildlife Safety Response Officers also help with these ongoing efforts.

As I’m sure you’re aware, under the provincial Wildlife Act, it is an offence to leave attractants accessible to dangerous wildlife such as bears. Some municipalities have bylaws that mirror this prohibition. To reduce human-wildlife conflicts, conservation officers regularly conduct province-wide bear attractant compliance inspection audits, which often result in enforcement action.

During audits, conservation officers patrol neighbourhoods and other areas to ensure attractants are properly secured. This can mean checking that bear-proof bins are used, excess fruit has been picked from trees and electric fencing is used around livestock.

Conservation officers also use tools such as Dangerous Wildlife Protection Orders, tickets and fines to address non-compliance with bear attractant legislation. The COS also works with partner agencies, such as municipalities, to help ensure attractants are managed—as the COS is not the sole enforcement agency.

It might interest you to know that in 2020, conservation officers spent more than 2,000 hours on attractant-related audits, patrols and investigations resulting in 392 Dangerous Wildlife Protection Orders, 137 violation tickets and 405 written warnings. However, despite substantial enforcement efforts of the COS, non-compliance with bear attractant legislation remains responsible for a significant number of bear conflicts across the province.

We look forward to working towards our shared goals of reducing bear conflicts and helping communities follow Bear Smart practices. We recognize the issue of human-wildlife conflict is complex and cannot be solved by the COS alone. If you would like to meet with me or my Deputy Minister to further discuss your thoughts, ideas and practical experience, please contact my Senior Ministerial Advisor at Kelly.Sather@gov.bc.ca.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,
George Heyman, Minister
cc: Kevin Jardine, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Kelly Sather, Senior Ministerial Advisor, Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy