The Hailey City Council approved a joint resolution Monday evening in support of the Wood River Valley Wildlife Smart Community Coalition, a grassroots effort intended to minimize human-wildlife conflict in Blaine County and its cities.
The coalition—still in its planning phase—currently involves the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest Service, Blaine County and three of its cities, the BLM and local conservation organizations.
The county commissioners adopted the Wildlife Smart resolution on Aug. 4 and the city of Ketchum is expected to do the same on Aug. 17.
“Bellevue has not been active in this effort yet, but we’re hopeful they will join,” Fish and Game spokesman Terry Thompson said in a Monday council presentation.
According to Thompson, the coalition aims to reduce lethal control of wildlife by highlighting the responsibility that all residents have to keep bears, mountain lions, wolves and other big-game animals wild.
“We feel very strongly that if we can increase the education of residents, we can reduce the incidences of human-wildlife conflicts so we don’t have to euthanize bears that have become food-conditioned, or mountain lions that have taken up residence underneath homeowners’ decks,” he said. “The goal here is to keep residents, pets and wildlife safe.”
Since talk of the Wildlife Coalition began in January, Thompson said the Magic Valley Regional Office has submitted two grant applications for a total of about $33,000 from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The money would go toward a website where residents and visitors could learn how to stay safe around local wildlife and how to discourage bears and lions from accessing their property, he said. Funding would also apply to educational presentations in schools, libraries and public meetings.
One of the top concerns that Fish and Game has had over the years is the management of residential household garbage, Thompson said.
‘We’re currently working with Clear Creek Disposal to see if we could transition to bear-resistant garbage cans in certain neighborhoods—all of East Fork, all of Warm Springs, all of Hulen Meadows and Ohio Gulch,” he said. “Obviously the switchover is a very expensive proposition, but it’s not insurmountable, at least in my mind. The will is there—we just have to figure out a way.”
If debuted at a broader level in the valley, bear-resistant garbage containers would benefit those without garages or locked sheds, Thompson said. Ultimately, he hopes that the coalition will be driven by residents, not governmental agencies.
“It’s much easier to change human behavior than wildlife behavior,” he said.
Mayor Martha Burke called the resolution a “first good step.”
“I think we are all behind this 100 percent. It never hurts to bring up [wildlife education], because we have new people all the time,” she said.