WildSmart is an organisation based in the Bow Valley dedicated to reducing negative human-wildlife interactions in the area. Established in 2009 as a branch of the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley, WildSmart has grown over the last decade to reach thousands of residents and visitors alike .
In the last few decades, the Bow Valley has grown in popularity, becoming a major tourist destination. Canmore, in particular, has transformed from a small mining town into a mountain retreat . The increase in population, infrastructure, and activity in the Bow Valley has caused conflict between the native wildlife and the region’s commercial development. WildSmart was established as a resource to educate the public on the importance of wildlife coexistence and to implement initiatives to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions . It is an excellent example of a program that is turning conflict into coexistence.
Why the Bow Valley?
The Bow Valley is an important wildlife corridor used by many large mammal species, such as elk, bears, wolves, and cougars. Many key species in the Bow Valley region require a large amount of space and are highly migratory or transient . The Bow Valley wildlife corridor connects the larger, surrounding areas of Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country allowing both populations to safely roam. The combination of the wildlife corridor and habitat loss in the Bow Valley due to development has resulted in the Canmore area having significant wildlife in close proximity to human activity . WildSmart has made great strides to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions
Wildlife Reports: WildSmart publishes weekly Bear Reports from April through November to report bear sightings in the Bow Valley and Banff Area. Their Current Trail Warnings and Closures resource shows real time trail closures and warnings in Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country due to wildlife activity .
Attractant Management: The attractant management program is aimed at removing any potential food sources for wildlife from densely inhabited or frequented areas. Attractant management focuses on natural and unnatural food sources from buffalo berry removal to proper garbage disposal. WildSmart also provides free equipment rental for attractant removal .
Wildlife Ambassadors: Wildlife ambassadors are community volunteers trained by WildSmart to assist in public outreach and education, avoiding or handling wildlife encounters, and conflict resolution. Wildlife ambassadors interact with the community in an educational capacity through roving and stationary wildlife talks. Currently, the Wildlife Ambassador program is undergoing changes to incorporate new initiatives such as citizen science and social media campaigns .
Education and Community Outreach: Education and outreach is congruent with several of the aforementioned initiatives. This program includes interacting with schools in the community to provide classroom programs and supporting teachers by providing educational materials. WildSmart also hosts several community events, such as bear spray training sessions, a speaker series, and education through media outlets .