Low turnout for Bear Smart workshops surprises RDN directors

An average of 500 black bears are killed every year in British Columbia

These bears got lucky

These bears got lucky

It’s a little too late when the enormous head of an adult male black bear pokes around the corner of your house to wish you had taken part in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Bear Smart education program.

However, despite extensive advertising of a series of workshops with bear expert Crystal MacMillan of BearSmart Consulting, very few people actually showed up.

In all, just 39 RDN residents turned up for the series of seven sessions held around the district over the past two months, with Qualicum Bay seeing only one attendee at the April 30 session and none at all at the Cranberry Hall session on April 18. Nanoose Bay and Qualicum Beach had seven and six participants respectively. Only the meeting in Cedar attracted more than 10 participants.

In his report to the board, Zero Waste coordinator Jeff  Ainge said other methods may be needed to get the message out.

“Staff believe that if the board wants to continue providing a level of bear awareness information, with a specific focus on managing attractants around the home, future funding allocations in the Solid Waste budget can be better utilized than hosting information sessions,” he said in his report.

Commenting on the issue at Tuesday night’s committee of the whole meeting, Bowser/Deep Bay director Bill Veenhof said he was unimpressed with the turnout.

“I’m somewhat surprised that Area F (Coombs-Hilliers) had more people show up than Area H,” he said. “I’m not convinced the outreach was worth  the costs and if the recommendation is to consider flyers, I would support that.”

Veenhof stressed that it isn’t only compost and recycling materials that attract bears.

“Our experience in our area suggests they come in for the fruit trees,” he said. “When you have fruit trees, you have bears.”

An average of 500 black bears are killed every year in British Columbia and most of these deaths are preventable.