The Coast has a new conservation officer.
Murray Smith has moved from Prince George, where he worked as a conservation officer for 12 years, to take the position locally.
"I have 17 years of experience as a conservation officer," said Smith, who worked for five years in Maple Ridge before taking the position in Prince George.
He is happy to be on the Coast with his wife and two children, and he looks forward to tackling the Coast's unique conservation challenges.
"The Coast has a high population of black bears and I plan to do lots of work with black bears in urban areas," said Smith.
He hopes to create community bear-watch groups that would be responsible for monitoring bear attractants like garbage and ripe fruit trees, and then resolve any issues before a bear enters a neighbourhood.
"I think the challenge I see right away is that I'm only one person and I'm going to need public assistance," said Smith.
He plans to set up a fruit exchange on the Coast where volunteers pick ripe fruit when it's in season and coordinate delivery of the fruit to people or organizations like the Food Bank. Then, he says, the fruit would not be wasted and it wouldn't be lying around in local yards attracting bears.
Smith was involved with a similar exchange done regularly in Prince George.
He also said he wants to heighten bear awareness on the Coast and educate people about storing garbage properly and keeping yards clean of bear attractants.
"I guess there are three main things I want to get out there and that's to make sure garbage is stored in sheds, not just in garbage cans with a lid on them left on the deck. To clean up seeds left around bird feeders and to pick fruit from trees by the end of August," said Smith.
He says once a bear is in a community eating fruit, seeds and garbage, it becomes a "junk-food bear" and the only option to keep it away is to destroy it.
"Obviously I don't want to have to do that, but if you trap a bear and relocate it, it really has to be over a mountain range because they are very good at finding their way back, and we just don't have the funding to relocate bears anymore," said Smith.
That's why he hopes the community will be active in helping him eliminate bear attractants, and keep bears in the forests where they belong.
Within the last two months there have been dozens of bear sightings in Langdale, Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Davis Bay and Wilson Creek.
Smith says he is currently working on a number of calls the previous conservation officer was not able to resolve, and he also plans to look at issues with air quality and water pollution on the Coast.
If you have a conservation concern you would like Smith to address, you are directed to the 1-800-663-WILD number that now acts as the local dispatch for Smith.