When Kim Titchener last spoke in the Yukon about coexisting with wildlife, families and communities were up in arms about a grizzly and her cubs that were visiting a local playground.
“They would come and eat berries next to the playground,” Titchener said of the situation.
Some people in the community wanted to shoot the bears, but Titchener had a much simpler, and safer, solution: Remove the berry bushes. If you take away the reason the bears come to the playground they’ll stop coming and look elsewhere for food. And sure enough, after the berry bushes were pulled out the bears stopped frequenting the playground.
“At the end of the day people were just really worried about their children,” Titchener said. “It’s just figuring out ways, and most of them are simpler.”
As part of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s Summer Speaker Series, Titchener will give a talk on Tuesday about learning to coexist with wildlife in Jackson Hole.
Titchener specializes in human-wildlife conflicts, and makes her living traveling and speaking to communities as well as running Bear Safety, an organization that works with big industry like oil and lumber to try to convince them to consider their impacts on wildlife in their work.
Titchener is from Canmore, Alberta, a town near the southeast boundary of Banff National Park. She finds a lot of parallels between Canmore and Jackson — similar demographics, wildlife issues, recreational uses. Canmore even has an affordable housing problem, too.
“This is pretty much the mecca of human-wildlife conflicts,” Titchener said of her home community. “We didn’t take the time to consider wildlife when we originally planned everything — the trails, homes, etc. And now we’re dealing with the consequences of our poor planning.”
But the talks and action about how to deal with living among wildlife have already been set into motion, even though it may be retroactively.
“What happened here was we had a woman killed here by a grizzly bear, and I don’t want your community to wait until something like that happens to get together,” Titchener said. “I’m not an expert on your community … but I think there may be some lessons learned.”
She knows the topic of human-wildlife conflict is controversial, but she hopes a community can get past that.
“There’s lots of agendas, lots of hurt feelings, and how to get all these people in the same room to talk about it,” she said.
Titchener hopes people will come away from her talk with new ideas or new perspectives on the issue.
“I feel like solutions for the community can only come from the community,” she said.
But sometimes it’s good to get a fresh set of ears to hear the problems that community members are facing in dealing with wildlife, and those trained ears can help give solutions.
“There’s so many resources, and hopefully we can connect you guys with those,” Titchener said.
She also doesn’t want her presentation to be one-sided. She said she will talk for 30 to 45 minutes and then open the floor for a long discussion for people to bring up their concerns or points of view.
The talk begins at 6 p.m. in the Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center. It’s free, though donations are accepted.
“I’m hoping it’s not just people that are converted [that come],” Titchener said. “I’m hoping we get some people there that don’t realize the impact we have on wildlife.”