Trail digitally maps out bear activity

Barry McLane, a second-year student of Selkirk College used data collected with a GPS unit to create a map that illustrates bear hazards

Trail will know where to greet its furry friends when they come out of hibernation this spring with a digital map of bear activity soon to be released.

Barry McLane, a second-year student of Selkirk College’s Geographical Information Systems course, used digital data collected with a GPS unit while touring city neighbourhoods last summer to create a map that illustrates bear hazards such as fruit trees and residential garbage along with wildlife corridors.

The map will then assist in creating a bear-hazard assessment report, which will provide suggestions for human-bear conflict management, according to Bear Aware coordinator Sharon Wieder. The approximate $5,000 project kicked off last year with funding from Teck, following a restorative justice agreement in relation to a mercury spill in 2010.

A similar plan was undertaken in Rossland in 2005 but Trail’s digital result will enable the city to update its map continuously.

“Having (Rossland’s) map has been great as an educational tool when I do public displays and people come and find where their house is and they can then look and say, ‘OK, I understand now why I have bears in my yard and here are some the things that I can do,’” said Wieder.

While full details on what was discovered during neighbourhood tours last summer won’t be available until the map is released, Wieder said West Trail continues to be a problematic area with its covered stairways and green corridors.

“There’s a lot of fruit trees and a lot of garbage cans that are just sitting in back alleys, those were the two big ones, which wasn’t a big surprise. At least this way it’s all mapped out so people can have the information and the city can show them how big of a problem it really is.”

The final outcome will help with future development or city bylaws, said Wieder, pointing to Rossland finally adopting a wildlife attractant bylaw last spring.

Other communities in the province like Kamloops have already completed a similar assessment, which is one of the mandatory requirements needed to be recognized as a bear smart community under a provincial program, which could help with future financial support.

For now, Wieder awaits the first sightings of the season and encourages residents to report problem bears to 1-877-952-RAPP.

“Typically it’s the younger bears that come out first,” she said. “The big deal in trying to get the word out right away is because they’re the ones – those sub-adult males – that are more likely to get into trouble.”

Though numbers were not released from the conservation office for 2011, Wieder estimates that about five to six bears were killed in both Trail and Rossland last year, a major decrease from 2010 when 16 were destroyed in Rossland and 13 in Trail.