The Fur-Bearers has collaborated with UBC students on a research project that looked at the public’s perceptions of black bears in their communities. This project was part of a course on Human Wildlife Conflict, developed and led by Dr. Kristen Walker, Assistant Professor of Teaching at the Applied Animal Biology Program at the University of British Columbia.
This applied biology course provides students with the unique opportunity to partner with non-profit organizations to conduct original research, examine and address real-world problems, and put forward solutions. The Fur-Bearers was among several other organizations who worked with students to look at pressing wildlife issues in British Columbia.
The Fur-Bearers’ collaboration focused on bear coexistence in Tofino, Ucluelet, and Squamish. Student researchers sent a survey to citizens of these communities to determine their attitudes towards various bear-related issues including use of bear safe garbage bins, willingness to pay additional garbage collection fees to support coexistence with bears, and perceptions about tourism’s impacts on bear behaviours.
164 responses were received from residents of these three communities. As this is a limited sample size, a note that the responses may not be representative of the entire community(s). However, the responses received and the strong opinions expressed indicate that further research in this area is needed.
View the infographic below to see the results of the survey and high-level findings from the research project.
Areas of significance that were examined in the research project were attitudes towards current management, education, perceptions of community practices, and impact of tourism. A primary concern identified was the impact of tourism on bear related issues. Click on a tab below to view findings from the research:
- 86% participants felt tourism increased black bear conflicts
- Participant quote: “Visitors are often unaware how many bears live within our region and where they are, and therefore do not associate their own careless actions inside the community to affect wildlife they believe to exist “outside” of the community.”
The main factors found to be influencing black bear encounters were insufficient waste management programs, food attractants from visitors and the impacts of tourism, and insufficient education and enforcement. The project concluded with several management implications:
- Greater enforcement: on the ground monitoring, following through with fines, targeting high traffic trails and lesser known campgrounds, working with residents
- Collaborative efforts: BCCOS and WildSafeBC working with tourism providers, ExploreBC/Tourism Tofino/Tourism Squamish campaigns, working with AirBNB/vacation rentals
- Proactive measures: more bear safe garbage bins, garbage management with short term rentals and local businesses, financial aid
- Interactive and evolving outreach: education starting from the bottom up in schools, targeting younger audiences, integration into messaging from tourism providers
The Fur-Bearers will use this research to inform our education and advocacy campaigns around coexistence with black bears as it relates to tourism and its impacts. We thank Dr. Kristen Walker for delivering this invaluable course and the partnership with The Fur-Bearers. A huge shout-out to the amazing UBC students who led this research project: Annie, Amalia, and Sydney!