Wildlife

Living in Whistler and Pemberton, you will be surrounded by forests, mountains and the back country where seeing and meeting dangerous wildlife is normal.  It is important to be aware of the wildlife that exists when out hiking or biking in Whistler and Pemberton, and you should make sure that you know what to do when you meet dangerous wild animals.  Information on how to react when encountering specific wildlife species can be found on the BC Government’s Ministry of the Environment website:   http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/info/wildlife_human_interaction/

Bears and their cubs

There are over 100 bears in the Whistler area, specifically Black bears, and most people will have a bear encounter at one point or another.  Black bears can be all colours, so don’t be confused by the name.  They tend to be shy and generally avoid people, which is often the same way we feel about them.  If you stumble across a bear, it’s important to know some common bear behaviour on how they will react, as well as responsible behaviour on your reaction to the bear.  When a bear gets sight of you, it may stand up on its hind legs with its nose up in the air. Despite his now giant and fierce size, he is mostly just being curious. The bear may also huff, slap or stomp the ground and may even approach you.  Before freaking out, follow these simple reactions:

  • Be calm. Stop where you are, and stand your ground. 
  • Speak in a calm, appeasing tone. “Hey Bear, Whoa Bear.”
  • Back away slowly. Walk, don’t run and watch the bear to see how it will react.

Most times the bear will wander away. If you find a bear in your neighbourhood or in town, you can scare the bear away by yelling at it or making loud noise, from a safe distance. This lets the bear know that it’s not welcome in human environments. It is important that the bear has a clear path out, so don’t corner it!  Be mindful of bears with cubs, as they are very protective of their young and not as shy as your average bear!

It’s important to know what you need to do to help limit bears in unwanted areas:

  • Never feed a bear. Feeding bears not only will result in local fury, but it will also include a hefty fine, upwards to $350, and the bear may then be at risk of being relocated or killed.
  • Keep your garbage secure. Bears have been known to break screen windows, climb up decks and even open doors or tear them off to get at garbage. A garbage-loving bear will go to great lengths if it knows there is food, and it’s behaviour can result in relocation or death, so do your part and keep your garbage secure.

Read the document called Ten Things You Should Know About Bears: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/bearsmart/10_THINGS_BEARS.pdf

For more information on coexisting with the Whistler bear, visit www.bearsmart.com.  If you see a bear, want to report bear attractants such as unsecured garbage, or learn more about bear proofing your home, call 604-905-BEAR (2327).

Grizzly bears

Also known as Brown bears, are very rare in the valley, but can be found in the backcountry around the mountains and north of Pemberton. They have a pronounced shoulder hump which black bears lack, proportionately longer claws and a concave or “dished” facial profile.   Never try to scare a grizzly bear away. They are considered more dangerous than black bears.  If you think you see, one leave the area and contact Wildlife Conservation Officers to report interactions where public safety is at risk. Call 1-877-952-RAPP (7277).

For more information about bears, see the following websites:

http://www.bearaware.bc.ca/

http://www.whistler.ca/bears

For a safe close look at bears you can join a mountain tour on Whistler Blackcomb.  See: www.whistlerblackcomb.com/todo/summer/bears/index.htm

Cougars

Cougars are fortunately rare, but very dangerous.  In Canada, the cougar is probably the most dangerous animal to man.  Every couple of years a cougar is sighted in the Squamish or Whistler areas.  Also called mountain lions, pumas or panthers, a 150 lb. cougar can measure 8 feet from nose to tail, and is lightning fast.  It leaps on the back of prey and takes down animals much bigger than itself.  If you spot one locally, leave the area immediately and report the sighting.  Call Conservation Officers Toll Free 24 hours at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).

Wild lynx/Bobcats

Wild lynx and bobcats also live in the forests and mountains surrounding Whistler.  These smaller cats are both shy and elusive, however sighting of bobcats tend to be more common.  They don’t pose a danger to humans, but as with all wildlife, leave them alone and keep your distance.

Coyotes

These wild dogs are naturally curious animals, however they are timid and will usually run away if challenged.  Coyotes start posing a risk to people when they lost their shyness and become comfortable around humans – this is usually a result of direct or indirect feeding by humans.  Coyotes are known to kill and eat small pets such as dogs and cats.  Keep your cats inside, especially at night, and supervise small dogs at all times.   If you see a coyote in your yard, bring children and animals inside, yell at it and throw a rock to scare it back into the woods.

Wolves

Wolves are not commonly seen in Whistler.  If you do see one in town, report it to Conservation Officers, per below.

What to do if you observe dangerous wildlife?

If you observe dangerous wildlife in an urban area involved in any of the following, please report the incident to Conservation Officers, 24 hours, toll free:  1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).

  • Accessing garbage or other human supplied food sources
  • Instances where wildlife cannot be easily scared off
  • Dangerous wildlife is in a public location like a city park or school during daylight hours
  • When a cougar or wolf is seen in a urban area