Rick Stiebel – Sooke News Mirror
Just the bear facts please because they matter, especially in Sooke.
Wild Wise Sooke is hosting an information and volunteer recruitment session in Sooke this month on how to co-exist with bears.
Debbie Read, the event’s organizer, said the session is especially timely, considering it’s the time of year when bear sightings are on the rise in the community.
“Sooke has the fifth highest bear population in Canada,” said Read, an urban wildlife conflict specialist who founded Wild Wise Sooke eight years ago.
There were 500 bear-related calls to conservation services last year alone, she noted, with Whiffen Spit and the Sunriver area reporting a significant amount of sightings every year at this time.
Read said Wild Wise Sooke stresses the importance of an education-based approach to co-existing with bears.
“If you see a bear in your backyard, you need to know what’s causing this,” Read explained. “Are you doing the right things, keeping your garbage stored inside in a secure area, not feeding pets outdoors and not feeding birds?”
Although there has been significant progress in Sooke the last eight years in reducing the number of bears that are destroyed, the importance of educating the public and the need for more volunteers to work with Wild Wise Sooke will increase as the population grows, Read noted.
“That’s why we’re hoping to get a good turnout that results in signing up more volunteers,” she said. “We are well regarded within the community and work together with the District, the RCMP and conservation services.”
Wild Wise Sooke also takes an active role in educating the public on deer, raccoon, cougars, wolves and other wildlife.
Peter Pauwels, a conservation officer with the BC Ministry of Environment, urged anyone with questions about bears or how to reduce bear conflict to attend the Wild Wise Sooke information session.
“We’ve worked with them for several years and they do a fantastic job of educating the public,” Pauwels said. “We rely on them quite heavily to get that information out there. Their efforts have resulted in less bears being killed in Sooke.”
The free event takes place May 15 at 7 p.m. at the Sooke Region Museum at 2070 Phillips Rd.
Read is also encouraging people to complete a survey being conducted by undergraduate students in the Environment and Sustainability program at Royal Roads University.
The students are inviting the public to take part in their human-bear conflict management research project to better understand the human-bear issues in Sooke.
The information gathered from the survey will help put together a management plan to help Sooke residents decide on ways to reduce human-bear conflicts.
The project is funded by RRU and Wild Wise Sooke. Participants in the survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, must be 19 years of age. Results will be summarized in anonymous form in a final report.(Incl survey link)
“We are working closely with the students on conflict resolution,” Read said. “The document should help formulate a conflict management plan, and the survey will provide invaluable feedback from the community.”