WildSafe BC community co-ordinator Andrea Smillie has expressed a growing number of concerns about wildlife and safety in the Columbia Valley.

From my perspective, there were a lot of black bear conflicts going on between June and November this year, she explained. But I guess thats common for this area. Its hard to determine what caused it beyond making assumptions about their food supply and the weather, but its hard to nail it down to one thing. It likely had to do with the hot and dry weather affecting their food supply and also had to do with attractants being left out garbage is the main problem throughout the valley.

While Invermere and Radium have improved in waste management over several years, her year-end report states, the amount of black bear conflict is still high in these communities, including one bear that was destroyed in Fairmont this fall, and a sow (female bear) and her cub that were evicted from their winter slumbers in early December after hibernating in a den under a deck in the Lakeview Meadows subdivision. Ms. Smillies annual report for 2015 was submitted to the Village of Radium Hot Springs, the District of Invermere and the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F and Area G representatives in late December.

Ms. Smillie explained that tourists and second homeowners need to stay abreast with safety measures to prevent wildlife conflicts in the valley year-round.

She emphasized there are rules and regulations in place for waste disposal in the Columbia Valley to help minimize conflicts with wildlife, but added the use and abuse of transfer stations could cost residents more than they bargained for.

Its a really big issue throughout the valley, and its probably the one that we deal with the most, said Ms. Smillie, adding its possible to make improvements in waste management to make the surrounding communities safe from wildlife for everyone.

Looking after fruit trees in September and October is another really big issue as well.

Now, Ms. Smillie is working toward urging community members from Invermere, Radium, Edgewater, Fairmont and Windermere to crack down on wildlife confrontations, conflicts and safety measures. She is encouraging municipalities in the Columbia Valley to engage in a regional discourse to address the issues that plague many communities across the East Kootenay and implement effective safety precautions.

During the winter time, were typically seeing less bear conflicts and more deer conflicts just because the deer hang out in town a little more where its warmer in the valley bottoms in winter time, said Ms. Smillie, noting the elected officials have been largely supportive and receptive to taking preventative measures. Were probably going to see an increase in cougar conflict because they come into the valley to find the deer, so I would say that people should be cognizant of the seasons and the type of conflicts that come with it.

While there has yet to be a date set for a regional discussion about safety measures, Ms. Smillie was pleased to report that the suggestion has been met with support from the East Kootenay region.

She stated that many people in the valley are well-informed about backcountry safety for hiking trips, but her concern is for homeowners, who need to tune into prevention methods such as removing food sources over the winter.

Instead of separating wildlife from town, its important to look at the situation as a whole because one mistake or one instance of leaving out an attractant can cause a bear to come back to the area even for people who are pretty aware of the situation, said Ms. Smillie. Be more vigilant about garbage and wildlife in general.

The final reports for 2015 are posted online everyone to see at