A bear that appeared to be visiting Victoria from Fort St. James highlights both the perks and challenges of an interactive website that plots wildlife encounters in B.C.
A browse through the Victoria-area using the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP), found expected results – a plethora of deer and the occasional bear and cougar – and the surprise guest from northern B.C.
The service, provided by WildSafeBC, uses daily data from the Conservation Officer Service as well as self-reported sightings by the public, to show on a map where wildlife is interacting with people.
“That’s the challenge that we have. A spelling mistake can cause an error in the data and we can’t verify each individual sighting,” said Frank Ritcey, senior provincial WildSafeBC coordinator. “But the real value in this service is seeing trends over time. We can see if there is an increase in wildlife encounters in certain areas over the years, or find areas where garbage as an attractant is a big problem.”
Garbage is the number one attractant cited in reports to the Conservation Officer Service hotline.
The site allows the public to search an area based on time frame, species, encounter type and more. They can also sign up to get alerts whenever bears, cougars or other wildlife are seen in their area.
By clicking on the animal icons on the map, users can see if there was a suspected attractant involved in the reported sightings – whether that be garbage, livestock, pets or otherwise.
The resource is also rich with information on wildlife and provides suggestions on how to live in harmony with different species.
So far over 750,000 alerts have been sent out to the 1,000 users who have registered and chosen to receive alerts, according to Ritcey. The site does not require people to register, with Ritcey estimating the total users since its inception in 2012 to be around 10,000.
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