Be BearWise!

IBBR launched our new educational initiative, Be BearWise at the Environmental Education Outreach Program this May in central Idaho. It was the perfect opportunity for the local children to learn about the habitat and needs of the black bears in their area; learn about making a difference in the lives of individual bears and bear populations; and to learn how to co-exist peacefully with bears, both at home and when recreating in black bear habitat.

Many communities in central Idaho are small town/semi-urban communities or very rural, with both ranching and farming as predominant features. Based on information we received from both the town and rural children, the introduction of our Be BearWise program was an important first step to introduce information on how to humanely and effectively prevent or resolve conflict with bears that are foraging in human garbage, living in the areas where residents and visitors might camp and hike, and to introduce solutions to help protect crops and small farm animals (chickens) from the activities of bears.

There is a dire need for our Be BearWise message in the state of Idaho! The timing of this first presentation was perfect. Bears are coming into the residential/town areas of many of these communities, at various times, and it appears that there has been little education with the children (and we didn't see any information for adults) regarding how to co-exist peacefully with bears.

We'd like to have IBBR be a leader in helping communities in Idaho become BearWise. By sharing information with the public (adults and children) and working with municipal governments, IBBR can encourage these communities to utilize "bear proof" garbage containers and help to distribute information to residents and visitors about Be BearWise living, camping, and hiking. Based on our participation during the Environmental Education Outreach Program, it is apparent that there is an urgent need, even though many communities have bear habitat close by, to share general information about bears, their habitat needs, their behaviors, etc.

Timing is critical, as to our knowledge, most communities aren't yet "angry" with bears...However, if they continue to have problems, without positive solutions it could turn negative at some point in the future with the bears getting the short-end of it all. These are the scenarios that lead to more orphan black bear cubs. Without positive and effective solutions, communities will also be left with continued conflicts and economic losses.

Valerie LeBoeuf

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