By Dan Walton
WildSafeBC community co-ordinator Kara Haugseth wrapped up 2014 with a year-end report on Invermere and Radium Hot Springs, shining a light on the valleys most noticed human-wildlife interactions.
Deer were the main culprit over the spring and summer months, she reported, though bear activity was noticed to increase sooner than in previous years. Bear sightings were reported with minimal aggressive encounters.
One big challenge she experienced when trying to educate the public about deer was the perception many residents had of the problem. Each reported attack was provoked by dogs getting too close, but with very strong opinions in Invermere regarding the deer (and whether to cull or protect them), it was hard to get neutral messages across.
The programs garbage checks, which are like audits to measure wildlifes accessibility to garbage, were a great indication of how successful the program is in Invermere. And while bears have pestered the industrial garbage bins of Radium businesses in the past, there was only one incident involving a bear and a dumpster reported in Radium this year.
In her report, Ms. Haugseth relayed a concern from the local Conservation Office, which relies on the public to make better use of the Report Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line.
It is a common opinion in both (Radium and Invermere) that calling the RAPP line will result in the destruction of the animal. Correcting this myth was a main focus of eduction this year.
Carrying out its commitment to educational campaigns, WildSafeBC held presentations for a wide range of demographics in the valley, visiting some of the local elementary schools; the Invermere Public Library; Panorama staff training and the Headbanger Festival in Radium. WildSafeBC also showed its presence over the past year by manning information booths at many of the summers most popular events.
The solutions for co-habitating with wildlife were also discussed through door-to-door education in Invermere and Radium. The message in Invermere focused largely on the aggressive parents of local fawns, and both communities were reminded of the WARP system and RAPP line.
Keeping unwanted wildlife away was also achieved through the annual fruit swap program, where fruit tree owners who cant tend to their harvest arrange for other people to remove fruit from their trees that might tempt bears.
As WildSafeBC readies for 2015, the organization hopes to see the District of Invermere Bear Smart certified; increase summer programming; intensify the fruit swap program; involve the public better with discussions on living with deer; and increase its jurisdiction throughout the regional district to encompass more than Invermere and Radium.