It was interesting to read that Sudbury is initiating a mapping program to identify problem areas and the intensity of bear visits. Over 1,700 bear sightings were reported in 2015 in Sudbury.
In 2010, Wawa residents began to have a problem with bears within the town. In 2011, the number of bears sighted increased. In 2011, it was a big problem. In June 2012, Wawa resident Kristen Sabourin created a Facebook group ‘Bear Wise-Wawa’ and made me editor of Wawa-news (now MyWawa.ca) a co-admin.
With mounting frustration because calling police or Bear-Wise didn’t get rid of the bears, residents quit calling. It simply was of no use. Officers would arrive, say ‘Call Bear-wise’; perhaps set off a bear banger or two and the bear would go away – reappearing a block or two away. With the MNR saying that trapping was ineffective at removing frequent visitor bears, and the bears becoming tolerant of the bear bangers – residents were feeling trapped in their homes in late afternoon until mid-morning. Residents even had to go outside with their dogs when they went out for that last visit outside at night to protect them, evening strollers had to rethink their evening exercise. Some parents refused to allow their children outside in the areas of high risk, unless supervised.
This new group was able to inform people where and when bears were being sighted. Within days of the group’s formation, tracking of anecdotal bear sightings began on a Google Map by Wawa-news. With that information plotted, Municipal Council used that information to request participation in the pilot spring bear hunt; and 3 years later the tenants of Hillcrest Heights have two bear proof garbage cans.
Unfortunately, the bear problem hasn’t gone away. The Facebook group continues to see visitors and makes postings of bear sightings. There are 429 members. There has not been any statistics on bear sightings or the numbers of bears dispatched in Wawa publicized by OPP or MNRF over the years. As a result is very difficult to determine if Wawa’s bear problem is increasing or declining.
The exercise of mapping the bear visits in 2012 was successful and did show where the bears preferred to visit and continues to help residents avoid them or to take extra precautions to be a less attractive stop for bears. For Wawa, the mapping and Facebook group was effective in showing the bears community visiting habits, but has achieved little else.