Education is key to reducing human-wildlife conflicts

WildSafeBC was awarded $275,000 to provide education and increase awareness.

As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, British Columbians are spending more time outdoors, increasing the chances of human-wildlife conflict.

In 2014-15, the conservation officer service received 29,200 calls regarding human-wildlife conflicts in the province. Of those calls, 17,771 involved bears. During springtime, bears are emerging from hibernation and looking for food, while other wildlife – cougars, coyotes and wolves – are becoming more active, and increasing the potential for conflict.

According to the ministry of environment, relocating wildlife is neither viable nor a long-term solution in managing these kinds of conflicts. Often, relocated wildlife will return to conflict situations or will not survive competing with already established populations.

In order to reduce these potentially dangerous situations, the province is investing in education. WildSafeBC was awarded $275,000 to provide education and increase awareness in communities.

This provincial funding will allow WildSafeBC to support more than 100 communities throughout B.C. in their efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. This year, 22 co-ordinators will provide presentations to community groups, schools and residents, offering educational tips to reduce these conflicts.

According to the ministry of environment, the most effective and natural way to reduce human-wildlife interaction is to properly manage food attractants such as garbage, birdseed, compost, pet food and fruit so they are not accessible to wildlife. Communities where attractants are managed properly have seen a decline in related human-wildlife conflicts, and in the number of animals that have to be destroyed.

“The fact is, we share our communities with wildlife and it’s our responsibility to take action to manage human-wildlife conflict,” said Mary Polak, Minister of Environment. “By taking simple steps, like putting away garbage and birdseed, we can make a big difference in reducing these conflicts.”

WildSafeBC is designed, owned and delivered by the B.C. Conservation Foundation. The primary objective is keeping wildlife wild and communities safe by arming British Columbians with the tools necessary to discourage wildlife from lingering in residential areas.