Each year Prince George has one of the highest numbers of bears destroyed in the province (10-year average = 47 bears/year, Ciarniello2008.). Black and grizzly bears (Ursus americanus, U. arctos)inhabit areas surrounding Prince George, although black bears are more frequently encountered. In 1998, the Omineca Bear Human Conflict Committee (OBHCC) was formed by a group of concerned residents to address human-bear conflicts and bear destroyed within the city limits.
In 2000,the OBHCC developed the Northern Bear Awareness Society (NBA) with the goal of promoting public awareness on issues such as bear behaviour and learning. The goal of the NBA, as overseen by the OBHCC, was to focus on reducing“problem” bear behaviour, human-bear conflicts, and the number of bears destroyed within the city of Prince George. Despite considerable efforts, such as working with the City to install bear resistant garbage containers in parks,running a yearly fruit exchange program, and continuous extensive public outreach programs, between 2004 and 2009, the number of bear complaints more than doubled and >160 bears were destroyed, a rate similar to the 10-year average.
In 2006, NBA refocused its efforts towards achieving Provincial Bear Smart Status (Davis et al. 2002) and has completed a hazard assessment (Ciarniello2008.) and management plan (Ciarniello 2009). The hazard assessment identified that the planning and layout of the city appears to act to attract bears into residential neighbourhoods. As an addition to NBA’s education and outreach efforts in 2009 we started the Prince George Urban Bear Smart Research Project. The Project proposes to identify and conserve wildlife habitats for black and grizzly bears that live within or surrounding urban landscapes(i.e., resident bears) as well as aiding transient bears that are travelling through these areas. As urban areas further expand into formally contiguous habitats the results for wildlife are normally habitat degradation,loss and fragmentation thereby compromising conservation, particularly for large carnivores. Specifically, the objectives of the Urban Bear Research Project are to quantify the following factors and their influences on bear behaviour by:
The purpose is to use monitoring to develop or refine scientifically based methods and analysis that may be used to manage urban wildlife. This project will determine how we can use landscape level planning to enhance movement between habitat patches in areas where bears are acceptable and further to restrict or largely reduce access for bears in areas where bears are not acceptable, such as within residential neighbourhoods thereby promoting an increased environmental understanding among developers,City planners, the Conservation Officer Service and the public.
A preliminary report on the Urban Bear Research Project is now complete. If you would like to know the movements and habits of this bear, Nechako, and three others within the city of Prince George. This report will provide some detail into the size of their home range, when they den and emerge and show how easily a bear can run into conflict in residential areas that border green spaces. click here.