Today, the first Saturday in April, is International Bear Day. This special day was launched in British Columbia in 2015 to increase public awareness and understanding of the importance and fragility of these incredible animals.
To mark the occasion, the Pacific Parklands Foundation is pleased to announce funding for a new research and monitoring project to protect both bears and people at Minnekhada Regional Park in Coquitlam.
Located at the end of a natural wildlife travel corridor funnel, Minnekhada’s 211-hectares are characterized by high rocky knolls, second-growth hemlock forest, and low-lying marsh wetlands.
Minnekhada is a very popular park. In 2016, there were almost 160,000 visits by people to the park… but there were also many visits by black bears. In 2013, the City of Coquitlam topped the province for black bear sightings with over 1,280 reports. There have been many closures of the park gate on Oliver Road from July to September due to increased bear activity.
Bears love berries and Minnekhada Regional Park lies directly north of 236-hectares of commercial blueberry farmland. The blueberries attract a large number of black bears in from the surrounding area.
As the bears spend the summer months in the park and the surrounding fields, there is obviously an increased potential for conflict between the bears and park visitors as they share trails and roadways.
Pacific Parklands Foundation has provided a grant to help a team of experts gear up for the 2017 bear season. The $1,500 grant is for a bear monitoring program to protect both bears and park visitors. The funds will be used to purchase five additional wildlife cameras, as well as supplies for the research.
In-kind support is being provided from UBC in the form of professional guidance from local carnivore experts and from graduate students who will help with the summer field data collection.
The program is aimed at a better understanding the ecological drivers, seasonal and daily movement patterns, as well as population estimates of black bears within the park.
“In an effort to protect Metro Vancouver Regional Parks’ wildlife resources and the safety of park visitors, Metro Vancouver Natural Resource Management staff are undertaking a scientific study on the distribution, abundance, and movement patterns of black bears (Ursus americanus) within Minnekhada Regional Park,” says Markus Merkens, Natural Resource Management Specialist at Metro Vancouver Regional Parks.
“During a 2016 study, 76 bear sightings were recorded between June 9th and July 27th along Oliver Road within the park,” said Merkens. “Of these observations, 46 involved instances in which park visitors were in close proximity to bears, and 22 of these involved some form of high risk human behaviour including following or approaching a bear, or leaving food out or throwing food at bears.”
The data collected from this study will provide critical information to be used in the
development of a scientifically based management plan that protects both the bears and people that use Minnekhada Regional Park.
For more information on bear safety and how you can help keep bears wild, see this Guide to Coexisting with Bears from Metro Vancouver.