Local Conservation Fund Feature: Going the Extra Mile for Grizzlies

Grizzly Bear Coexistence Solutions project coordinator Gillian Sanders is pictured with a two-year-old female grizzly bear that was tranquilized, collared, and managed by conservation officers in the Meadow Creek area in 2012. This bear has stayed out of conflict since. Grizzly Bear Solutions works in partnership with the Conservation Officers Service to assist in preventing and mitigating of grizzly bear conflicts. Photo submitted.

Grizzly bear populations in the south and west arm of Kootenay Lake are recovering from near-threatened status. Grizzly Bear Coexistence Solutions is helping recovery efforts and working to improve human-grizzly bear coexistence through education, collaboration, and the use of practical tools. The project provides grizzly bear safety and electric fencing workshops, public outreach, and provides a cost share with residents on electric fencing to protect livestock and crops from bears.

Based on 10 years of work in the North Kootenay Lake area, Grizzly Bear Coexistence Solutions is receiving support from the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund (KLLCF) for the first time in 2017.

The South Selkirk grizzly population, which overlaps with Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) Areas E and A, is recommended to be listed as vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endangered species listing. In Area D, the collapse of the Kootenay Lake kokanee in 2015 and 2016 resulted in a huge loss of available grizzly bear food in the area, when just 1-2% of former kokanee numbers returned to the Meadow Creek Spawning Channel and lower Lardeau River. Low elevation habitats are needed for grizzly bears to move between core populations, yet these rural areas are often where people grow and raise food.

Grizzly Bear Coexistence Solutions operates with the understanding that livestock kills or property/crop damage perpetuates intolerance to grizzly bear presence, leaving the Conservation Officer Service (COS) with limited management options.

“There is a real, tangible social cost to living with bears, and the idea behind this project is to share this cost with residents, which creates a win-win,” said project coordinator Gillian Sanders. “People prevent bear conflicts, which can be stressful and expensive, and the bears stay out of trouble.”

In the 10 years Gillian has spent working to reduce grizzly bear conflicts in the Meadow Creek area, where a manmade kokanee spawning channel is an attractant for obvious reasons, she’s witnessed public tolerance towards grizzlies increase as conflicts are prevented and managed using long term solutions.

Recent (June 2017) grizzly bear activity in Crawford Bay (RDCK Area A) resulted in a mother grizzly bear with cubs reportedly killing domestic turkeys. The resident was concerned about their remaining meat and egg chickens and reported the conflict to the COS. The COS asked Gillian to assist with electric fencing, and the remaining poultry are now safe.

This project is partnered with the Transborder Grizzly Bear Project and is also financially supported by Columbia Basin Trust and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. The project works with the COS, local governments, and various local conservation, environmental and agricultural groups. If you are interested in a grizzly bear safety session or electric fencing for bears, please contact Gillian at 250-353-1137 or grizzlybearsolutions@gmail.com.

To learn more about bear management in the Meadow Creek area, click here.

To learn How to Electric Fence for Bears, check out this short, informative video produced by Gillian available on the Grizzly Bear Solutions YouTube channel.

For the most up-to-date information and to follow the project on Facebook, click here.

The Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP) in partnership with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) provides funding for projects that benefit conservation in the rural areas around Kootenay Lake through the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund (KLLCF). The purpose of the KLLCF is to provide local financial support for important projects that will contribute to the conservation of our valuable natural areas; one step towards restoring and preserving a healthy environment.