KELOWNA – A program designed to track human-wildlife interactions across the province was launched today, and it is the first of its kind.
The Wildlife Alert Reporting Program, developed by Wildsafe BC, gives users a convenient way to both log and track wild animals in their area and across the province.
Frank Ritcey and a team of Wildsafe BC developers have been working on the website for the past three years.
“This is my baby,” he says. “Even though people have a sense of how much human-wildlife conflict goes on in the province, it’s not until you see the map that you start to grasp just how much wildlife interaction goes on.”
Ritcey says that although BC operates a 24-hour hotline for reporting wildlife conflicts with humans, the sheer volume of calls received has made it impossible for Conservation workers to process, much less avail the information to the public in a meaningful way.
Users of the site can now log on and report an encounter or sighting. They can also view sightings relevant to whichever area they want.
He says there are many ways this system can be of benefit to users, such as spotting trends in animal behavior as well as education. The most important reason however, is safety. Any time there’s wildlife reported in the area you chose, the system will automatically send you an email alert with tips on how to minimize the chance of conflict with that specific type of animal. Plans to integrate with Twitter and Facebook are also planned.
“If there’s a cougar in your neighbourhood, you will be able to post that, add a note to it and your friends and neighbours can see it instantly.”
One of the many key features of the system is the color coding of the animal-shaped icons.
“The color coding has to do with the attractant,” says Ritcey. “If the icon is colored red, it means the animal has been attracted by garbage.”
Light blue indicates no attractant.
Ritcey says that garbage is still the number one attractant and results in the unnecessary destruction of many wild animals for no reason other than they have come in contact with humans.
“A big part of what this program’s about is a way to educate,” he says. “So many bears are being destroyed because of something as simple as keeping your garbage inside until pick up day. If we take away the garbage, then we lose all of those garbage bears.”
Users can filter the type of data they want to see based on location, time, species and type of encounter. You can also choose what language the information is displayed in.
“We’re really excited about the system,” says Ritcey. “It’s totally going to change the way we interact with wildlife in the province.”
WildsafeBC shared this trail camera footage of a cougar bedding down for the night.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.