Introducing Wild Wise Sooke

A new campaign is being launched to deal with bears and human conflicts

  • Apr. 29, 2015 6:00 p.m.

Bears are at risk of becoming habituated to human food.

Keeping bears wild and humans safe is priority #1

Educating the public on how to live harmoniously with Sooke’s wildlife is the guiding principle of a new organization launched by former WildSafe BC  regional coordinator Debb Read and Nitya Harris of the Coexisting with Carnivores Alliance in partnership with the Sooke Transition Town Society.

Wild Wise Sooke will initially and primarily focus on bear management as Read continues a highly effective campaign she began 2012. Sooke is statistically one of the Canada’s leading hotspots for black bears. Problems arise as bears become habituated to dining on garbage rather than berries and roots. In turn, this creates safety issues and, in increasingly rare instances, fatal consequences for the bears.

The good news: Read’s efforts have decreased the number of local complaints to conservation services by 40 per cent (down to 278 calls last spring and summer). Better still, only four bears needed to be destroyed last year in the District of Sooke compared to 16 in 2013.

Sooke is now ready for its own community wildlife education program directed by a founding working group that features Read, Harris, the District of Sooke’s Laura Byrne and Councillor Ebony Logins from the EMCS Society, Transition Sooke’s Jeff Bateman and the Chamber of Commerce’s Travis Butler. The RCMP’s Jeff McArthur and Conservation Officers Peter Pauwels and Richard DeKelver are part of the advisory team.

“Ongoing public education is essential or the progress we’ve made will be lost,” explained Read. “The vast majority of people get it, but there are still folks out there who either store their garbage outside or keep it in the garage but put it out the night before pick-up. Other people leave pet food outside,  keep their birdfeeders full during the summer or are careless with their compost. All this is pure bear bait and it’s guaranteed to increase the chance of dangerous interactions between the bears and us.”

Sooke residents who spot a bear in their neighbourhood should immediately call the Ministry of Environment’s RAPP line at 1-800-663-WILD. In most cases, the creature will be rambling through on its way elsewhere, however the call allows conservation staff to track the local bear population. If the problem persists, Read makes a personal visit to explore the root causes and offer bear-wise remedies.

“Once a bear starts equating humans with food, they lose their natural wariness and become what is called ‘human-habituated,’” she explains. “They then learn to tolerate us in much closer proximity than what is safe for both bears and humans.  My best advise to homeowners is to take a careful look around their property, figure out what’s attracting the bears and then take remedial steps.”

Wild Wise Sooke is a good fit for Transition Sooke, said Bateman.

“One key aspect of the Transition Town philosophy is the ‘inner transition,’ and Debb is working hard to change the way we respect and interact with all forms of life in the region. Since 90 per cent of bear problems arise from garbage issues, the new group can partner up on projects with the new Zero Waste Sooke initiative. Best of all, Debb and Nitya are remarkably competent, caring and capable individuals with a plan and the energy to make it happen. The bears and all our wild things are fortunate to have them.”

The new organization is seeking volunteers, donors and partnerships with local non-profits, businesses and funding bodies.

In time, the educational focus will turn to cougars, raccoons, deer and other local inhabitants.

For further information, please contact Debb Read at debbread@icloud.com.

Just Posted

Time-lapse video shows weekend work on McKenzie Interchange project

Construction crews place concrete underpass bridge beams

Years of ‘horrific, violent accidents’ at Thetis Lake prompt plea to public

View Royal fire chief asks for an end to alcohol consumption at busy park

‘Best in the country’: Formerly homeless man praises Victoria’s outreach services

Jay W. was living on the streets of downtown Victoria in 2018

City of Victoria plans workshop to determine fate of Sir John A. Macdonald statue

Conversations will happen as part of a reconciliation dialogue series in May 2020

Islanders have new cancer screening option with $6.5 M diagnostic suite in Victoria

The Gordon Heys Family PET/CT Suite was unveiled at the BC Cancer Centre-Victoria

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Police ask for help locating missing men last seen in South Surrey

Jeep that Richard Scurr and Ryan Provencher were in has been located unoccupied in Logan Lake: RCMP

EDITORIAL: Trees at the heart of Sooke

Two largely unrelated stories surfaced this week that might lead one to… Continue reading

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Most Read