bear hazard assessment complete!

In Whitehorse and the surrounding areas, human developments overlap with grizzly and black bear habitat. Humans and bears frequently come in to contact with one another, sometimes resulting in negative encounters for both. Worldwide, bear populations have declined as a result of human-bear conflict and human resources are needlessly consumed reacting to these conflicts. Both conflict and management problems increase when human populations grow and urban boundaries encroach on wilderness areas. At the same time, our understanding of the cultural, ecological and economic importance of bears is growing. Traditional knowledge and science teach that it is important to protect bear populations. Governments and other organizations are, therefore, developing tools to help humans safely coexist with bears.

The Whitehorse Bear Working Group was formed in 2014 to find solutions that reduce human-bear conflict in the Whitehorse area. Members of the group represent the City of Whitehorse, the Centre for Human-Wildlife Conflict Solutions (also known as WildWise Yukon) and Environment Yukon and we extend invitations to all local governments and Renewable Resource Councils and other stakeholders to participate in the work that the group undertakes. 

In 2015, we contracted Wind River Bear Institute, owned and operated by Terrestrial Wildlife Biologist, Lori Homstol, to conduct a bear hazard assessment for the Whitehorse area to the extent of the city limits. Bear hazard assessments have been used in other Canadian jurisdictions as a step towards becoming a ‘bear smart’ community. The assessment can be used to inform decision makers and policy writers, as well as key stakeholders and champions within a community about how to reducing human-bear conflict.

This study resulted in a list of recommendations to help us reduce negative human-bear encounters. This is just one step, but a very important one. We are hopeful that these recommendations prove useful to our community. The study highlights opportunities for many organizations, as well as individuals, to work collaboratively for change and improvement.

In the spring of 2016 we followed this study up with a one day workshop, attended by over 30 organizations and individuals who have responsibility for human-bear interactions. The group reviewed the recommendations from the hazard assessment to determine their priority, identify what is already being done, what can be accomplished right away and what the longer term goals will be. Click on the button below for a summary of what we heard that day.

We are committed to updating Whitehorse on progress that relates to the recommendations from the assessment. The good news is, we are making some progress. The other news is that there is still a lot to do. Waste management continues to be the biggest challenge. Please consider making this a voting issue in the 2018 Whitehorse municipal election. Tell all candidates why and how you care about reducing conflict with wildlife in your "Wilderness City". 

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