Friday, February 04, 2011

Bear smart: researcher urges involvement of ranchers

Officials in Kamloops, as well as other cities on the fringe of wild areas, encourage homeowners to keep garbage indoors in order to deter bears. In the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in Montana, it's not quite so simple. And rather than just black bears, the population includes bigger and wilder grizzlies. But the concept of keeping people and bears safe, by keeping them apart, is the same. "The name of the game is minimizing attractants," said Seth Wilson, a visiting fellow with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. "It's not rocket science to minimize conflict with bears. But there are subtleties and complexities." It's those complexities as well as success in reducing conflicts between black bears, grizzlies, wolves and ranchers that Wilson outlined Thursday in a lecture to students in Thompson Rivers University's master's of environmental science program. In addition to his research responsibilities, Wilson is the wildlife co-ordinator for the Blackfoot Challenge, a landowner-led non-governmental organization in the Blackfoot River area in the Rocky Mountains in Montana. Prior to the Blackfoot Challenge taking on the problem of conflicts between ranchers and predators, Wilson said there were 77 of those conflicts in 2003. Last year, by contrast, there were 10 minor incidents - a 93 per cent decrease. The reduction in problem grizzlies came through a systematic reduction in things that attract them in known areas, including sick or dead calves...more

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