It starts with the education process.
What we encourage people to do is if they see a bear in a place where it shouldn’t be, in their backyard or wherever, is to immediately contact Wild Wise Sooke.
We will help to identify the attractants and make the public aware of the Bear in Area.
You see a bear in the backyard and you think, it’s not harming anybody, but it is the first step in the bear becoming habituated and so we’ve really been trying to get that message out to people.
People have been reluctant to call because they think the bear will be destroyed. That is not what we do.
Our approach is prevention.
Wild Wise Sooke uses a variety of communication methods to keep the public informed.
Whether I’m doing a school presentation or putting up Bear in the Area signs, talking with passers-by or radio interviews, paper interviews, city council, or Facebook and social media, my goal is to keep the conversation around human wildlife conflict at the forefront of people’s minds.
When that conversation takes on a life of its own, like in homes, in cafés, on social media, at city hall meetings, that is when you see real behavioural change. And we are seeing that happen in Sooke.
Last year was the first year that Bear in the Area signs were used and it was a successful pilot project because it got people talking to each other.
We also believe that it is effective for Sooke because it blankets an area and can reach second homeowners and visitors – groups who are often missed when going door-to-door.
Our bear conflict reports are down for this time of year, compared to previous years. People are keeping their garbage in a secure building, cleaning, barbecues, feeding pets indoors and putting the bird feeders away for the summer.
Most people care about bears and some people don’t. But everybody cares about personal safety, or at least they should.
Debb Read is the community coordinator for Wild Wise Sooke.