Yukon College acts to deter campus bear encounters

After six incidents in eight years, Yukon College's Ayamidigut campus in Whitehorse is moving to bear-proof its campus. 'Whitehorse is a wilderness city. Whitehorse has bear encounters everywhere,' said Andrew Smith.

'Whitehorse is a wilderness city. Whitehorse has bear encounters everywhere'

Each year there are numerous bear sightings in the City of Whitehorse, including the area around Yukon College. The campus is taking steps to deter the animals after six encounters in eight years. (Parks Canada)

After six incidents in eight years, Yukon College's Ayamidigut campus in Whitehorse is moving to bear-proof its campus. 

The action follows a report prepared by Scott Gilbert, instructor of the college's renewable resources management program, and a student in that program, Andrew Smith. 

Using anecdotal information about bear encounters near the college and data from Yukon Environment, Smith and Gilbert made recommendations on how the college could reduce human-bear conflict. 

Smith said one thing was very clear from their research: "Whitehorse is a wilderness city. Whitehorse has bear encounters everywhere." 

Bear incidents were investigated 16 times in Whitehorse's Middle McIntyre Creek area between 2006 and 2014, according to Environment Yukon. Six of those were on or adjacent to the Ayamdigut campus, with one bear killed and three trapped for removal. 

Yukon College is located outside of downtown Whitehorse in an area surrounded by greenbelt.

Smith was surprised little action had been taken to deter bears sooner, noting that many of the garbage containers on campus were not bear-proof. He said a bear visit to the campus last year that was caught on social media raised the profile of campus encounters.  

The college will move its waste and compost receptacles to a centralized area that will be protected by an electric bear fence. In one location, it's planning to replace a conventional dumpster with a bear-proof one and in September it plans to clear the periphery of the campus of soapberry bushes, a favourite food source for bears. This has the secondary benefit of improving visibility. 

Smith said the college has been moving quickly in response to his and Gilbert's recommendations. 

Yukon College said it will spend $4,000 on the initial round of bear-safe activity. 

Smith and Gilbert's report can be found on the Yukon College website.

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