Neighborhood groups are the foundation of community cooperation and human-wildlife conflict prevention. This concept is modeled after the National Neighborhood Watch program.
Phase One: Get Started
- Form a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss needs, the level of interest, possible challenges, incorporating the BearWise concept, and planning a community meeting.
- Contact FWC to discuss the BearWise program, local wildlife concerns, and historic activity. Email FWC to invite an FWC biologist to attend your meeting.
- Publicize your meeting at least one week in advance with door-to-door fliers and follow up with phone calls or emails the day before.
- Hold an initial meeting to gauge interest, establish the purpose of the program, and begin to identify issues. Emphasize that the group is an association of neighbors with three specific goals:
- Look out for each other’s families and properties,
- Alert FWC to bear and other wildlife activities, and
- Work together to make their community a safer, better place to live.
Phase Two: Elect a Chairperson and Establish Bear Ambassadors
- Elect a chairperson once the neighborhood adopts BearWise. Next, ask for Bear Ambassador volunteers. Bear Ambassadors might live on each block or be distributed throughout the community.
- Serve as liaisons between the neighborhood and FWC
- Communicate with residents about upcoming meetings
- Inform residents about wildlife incidents (e.g. maintaining signage , email updates, or newsletter)
- Maintain up-to-date resident contact information
- Involve all community members, including the elderly, working parents, and youth
- Contact newcomers to the neighborhood to inform them about the effort
- Establish a regular means of communicating with members (e.g. newsletter, phone tree, email, marquee, bulletin board).
- Prepare a neighborhood map containing names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of participating households. Distribute this map to members.
- With guidance from FWC, BearWise members will be trained in home security techniques, observation skills, and human-wildlife conflict reporting. Members will also learn about other types of wildlife that inhabit the area.
- Organizers and Bear Ambassadors must emphasize that BearWise groups are not vigilantes and do not assume the role of law enforcement. They only ask neighbors to be alert, observant, and caring—and to report wildlife incidents immediately to their assigned Bear Ambassador or FWC.
Phase Three: Community Compliance
- In order to be successfully BearWise, communities must collaborate to secure attractants. Once attractants are secured, they must be kept that way to prevent access by bears that may occasionally pass through the area. Evaluate your neighborhood to identify attractants and work together to secure them.
- Is your community BearWise? Consult the community checklist for mandatory requirements.
Tips for Success
- Hold regular meetings to help residents get to know each other. Collectively decide upon program activities and strategies.
- Consider linking with an existing organization, such as a Homeowners’ Association, community development office, or similar.
- Canvass door-to-door to recruit members.
- Involve everyone - young and old, single and married, renter and homeowner.
- Take advantage of support from FWC. This is critical to the group’s credibility and FWC is the major source of information on local wildlife populations, seasonal patterns, conflict prevention, and coexistence strategies.
- Get information out quickly. Share all kinds of news – fun and serious, but ensure it is factual.
- Gather the facts about wildlife in your neighborhood by contacting your regional Wildlife Assistance Biologist. Survey your neighbors to learn residents’ perceptions about wildlife. Often, opinions are not supported by facts. Accurate information can reduce fear and conflict.
- Unsecured trash and pet food, neglected fruit- or nut-bearing trees, or overgrown vacant lots can contribute to unwanted wildlife activity. Sponsor clean-ups, encourage residents to beautify the area, and ask them to secure attractants on their property.
- Celebrate your group’s success and recognize volunteer contributions through events like awards, annual dinners, and parties. Pins, t-shirts, hats, or coffee mugs with the group’s name also enhance identity and pride.