New Mission bear coordinator has lifetime of outdoor experience

Brian Cummings will be Mission's bear aware coodinator

Secure your garbage to lessen the chances of bears coming into your yard.

The District of Mission has brought back the bear aware coordinator for a second year to educate people about dealing with the furry critters, but there’s a new face to the title.

Brian Cummings, an outdoorsman with 30 years experience dealing with bears, will be filling the void left by Zoey Slater.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing on the good work that Zoey did” in in laying the ground work, he said.

The 53-year-old brings a wealth of experience to the position, not just with bears, but in dealing with wildlife. He managed the hunting and fishing store Outdoors Unlimited in Maple Ridge, has run fishing charters on the Fraser River for 20 years, as well as teaching hunting and firearms courses.

But Cummings has switched from hunting bears to protecting them, and with seven bears destroyed in Mission last year by conservation authorities, he has a goal this year of zero.

“It’s needless destruction. I think if everybody understood that by locking up their garbage, looking after their barbecues, their bird feeders and composting piles, it would eliminate the bears coming in to town.”

Cummings said as more urban residents push out to the rural perimeters of Mission, some might think it’s cool to see a bear or be tempted to feed it.

But that’s a mistake because they “become food conditioned and have to be put down,” he warned.

Part of the Bear Aware strategy is to educate kids so that they can tell their parents about what they learned.

Cummings will also do a door-to-door campaign in problem neighbourhoods to remind people about things like not leaving their rot pots out, and picking up fruit that’s dropped on their property.

According to Slater’s research last year, there 453 reported bear sightings in the district over the six month period from June to November.

The position of Bear Aware Coordinator was created by the district last spring and is jointly funded by the municipality and the Conservation Foundation.

For more information, visit www.mission.ca, click on Services, then Environmental Services, and then Bear Awareness. If you see a bear call 1-877-952-RAPP.