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Walking with Whistler Bears

If you go in to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise! The popular children’s’ rhyme “Teddy Bears Picnic” may have been inspired in Whistler! I have spent the last 8 months from October 2010 to May 2011 living on the out skirts of Whistler Village and although I haven’t seen any Whistler Black Bears enjoying a little picnic snack, I have seen many whilst walking the valley trails and snowboarding on  Blackcomb Mountain...  Just to clarify I was snowboarding – the bears were just foraging and munching away on spring clover and dandelion flowers! As a native of Australia I am no stranger to seeing wild creatures co-habiting close to humans.  I’ve encountered my fair share of Kangaroos on golf courses, Brush tail Possums in by back yard and Carpet Snakes in my chicken coup! Growing up on the Great Barrier Reef I have seen, happily not too up close and personal, Salt Water Crocodiles and Black Tipped Reef Sharks in the warm waters of the Daintree River and Coral Sea. Coming to Canada for a two year working holiday, I was hoping to see some of its iconic animals and am happy to have ticked Orca, Seals, Sea Otters, Elk, Deer, Racoons, Squirrels and Bald Eagles off the list during my travels in the Rocky Mountains and on the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island. What I was surprised to find was the healthy population of Black Bears active in the Spring, Summer and Autumn months that also call Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor Home! My second day in Whistler whilst walking along Fitzsimmons Road my friends and I, from a safe distance, spotted our first ever black bear, munching away on our neighbours front lawn fattening up for winter hibernation. It was a magical moment and the delight at seeing such a magnificent creature so close never fades no matter how many times I see one. In the last three days alone I have seen 5 black bears on four occasions. 1. One big black bear walking behind my house which backs on to Fitzsimmons Creek in the late afternoon - 23rd May. 2. Later that same night whilst walking home from dinner in the village a smaller black bear joined us from Montabello Estate on the Valley Trail along Blackcomb Way before crossing the road and heading in to the forest – 23rd May. 3. Whilst enjoying the 15 minute walk from my home to work at the Sundial Boutique Hotel again along Blackcomb Way some rustling and shaking branches brought my attention to two large cubs playing in a tree just at the edge of the wooded area beside the road – 24th May. 4. And again today on my way to work a big black bear was eating clover just over the Nancy Green Bridge behind the Fitzsimmons Walk condo’s adjacent to the Valley Trail – 25th May. We are lucky as visitors and residents of Whistler to share this beautiful landscape with these awesome animals but to avoid negative interactions between bears and humans it is important to remember the following while in bear habitat: Being Bear Smart • Never feed a bear, either intentionally or unintentionally. All garbage must be disposed of in bear-proof containers. In Whistler, it’s the law! Bearproof containers are located throughout the village, municipal parks and the valley trail. • Respect bears! Give them plenty of space and never approach them. No one should ever feed, pet or pose for a photo with a bear. Take pictures with a telephoto lens from a distance. •  Be careful when driving in and around Whistler. Unfortunately, many bears are hit and injured or killed on roads. •  Always be alert and aware in bear country. Bears have a keen sense of smell and can detect the aroma of a barbecue or picnic from a considerable distance. What should you do if you see a black bear? • Stop and assess the situation. • Remain calm. Do not approach the bear. In most cases, the bear will flee. • If the bear is still a distance away, maintain a respectful distance and detour around the bear. • If you encounter a bear on the roadside, do not get out of your vehicle, not even for a quick photo. I am always delighted when guests of the Sundial Boutique Hotel tell me they have also seen bears during their visit to Whistler. It really is a special experience to see bears in the wild and along with the array of summer and winter activities and year round amenities Whistler has to offer really makes for the holiday of a life time or in my case the working holiday of a life time! I hope you enjoy your stay and if you would like further information or would like to make a donation to help protect the Whistler Bear Population please visit (Information on being Bear Smart courtesy of the ‘Get Bear Smart Society’ website.) By Angela Cook, Guest Services Agent

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