04/15/2012 03:55 EDT | Updated 06/15/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. 'Bear Aware' Program Gets $225,000

Getty Images

The B.C. government is spending $225,000 over the next year on its Bear Aware program, aimed at reducing human-bear encounters in residential areas.

"Our continued support of the Bear Aware program, without a doubt, has reduced the number of bears that have to be destroyed," said Environment Minister Terry Lake.

"We’re making this funding available so that more communities can learn how to keep bears out of their yards and neighbourhoods — and that helps keep bears out of trouble."

The voluntary program, run by the BC Conservation Foundation, helps communities reduce bear attractants like garbage, bird feed or fruit in urban areas. Last year, 22 communities participated in the program.

"Bear Aware teaches people about proper attractant management, and that significantly reduces human-bear conflict," said chief conservation officer Lance Sundquist.

"This not only helps to preserve public safety, but also reduces the number of bears that conservation officers have to destroy, which is our ultimate goal."

'Ashamed of my own district'

Communities can also get provincial "Bear Smart" status if they meet certain criteria, including focusing on the root causes of human-bear conflicts and reducing the number of bears that are killed each year. For each of the past five years, 600 black bears were destroyed because of conflicts with humans in B.C. Only 93 were relocated.

Four communities are currently designated "Bear Smart": Kamloops, Squamish, Lions Bay and Whistler. Over 20 other communities in B.C. are actively pursuing "Bear Smart" status.

Tony Webb, the chair person for the North Shore Black Bear Network, wants the District of North Vancouver to get the designation but says by-laws with more penalties are needed first.

"I'm ashamed of my own District of North Vancouver because we've been working on them to get some decent by-laws for at least a decade," he said.

"If you attract — have garbage or any attractant including bird feeders or any situation that will attract the bear -- then a fine, say, of $150, for starters, should be issued."

Also on HuffPost

Animals In The News: Best Photos Of 2011