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WildSmart voted best environmental program in Canmore

Started in 2005 after a horrific human-wildlife encounter ending in a fatality, WildSmart has become a savored and important resource here in the valley when it comes to coexisting with wildlife.
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WildSmart program director Nick de Ruyter gleans crab apple trees outside of the Grizzly Paw Pub in Canmore. RMO FILE PHOTO

Living with wildlife requires education and here in the Bow Valley, the Canmore-based WildSmart program has that covered.

Started in 2005 after a wildlife encounter with a grizzly bear to the life of a Canmore woman, WildSmart has become a valued and important resource here in the valley when it comes to coexisting with wildlife.

Nick de Ruyter, Bow Valley WildSmart program director, said the program became a part of the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley’s umbrella 10 years ago.

“WildSmart was started back in 2005 by a coalition of local interest groups including businesses, environmental organizations, and municipal and provincial government agencies after a local woman [Isabelle Dube] was killed by a grizzly bear near Canmore,” he said.

“In 2009 WildSmart became a program of the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley, a local charitable organization that empowers local residents, businesses and visitors to be active environmental stewards through targeted education, research,and community engagement.”

WildSmart offers proactive conservation strategies in an effort to encourage communities to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions. Residents voted it as the best environmental program in the Rocky Mountain Outlook's Best of the Bow reader's choice awards for Canmore and De Ruyter said this makes him immensely proud.

“I feel honoured to be voted best environment program in [Canmore] and am very pleased that our community’s support of the WildSmart Program is evident and continues to grow,” he said.

“I am proud of the fact that through our various education programs I am able to not only educate residents and visitors, but I am also able to meet so many of the amazing members of our community and help guide them on a path to improve human-wildlife coexistence in the Bow Valley. I am also proud to be able to do my part in keeping wildlife wild and on the landscape.”

WildSmart offers programs to teach residents of all ages how to appropriately co-exist with the wildlife within the valley landscape. Coming up this fall and winter, it will also offer its regular Speaker Series. As well, its children’s education program sees De Ruyter and his team visiting schools in the valley and in Morley.

“As always, we will have our Speaker Series this fall/winter and we will continue to publish our weekly bear report while the bears are still active,” he said.

“We will also be very busy in the coming months going into the schools in the Bow Valley and Morley to deliver our exciting new children's education programs.”

For De Ruyter, none of what WildSmart does could be accomplished without the help of volunteers, the community and the Biosphere Institute.

“I would like to take this opportunity thank the incredible people I work with at the Biosphere Institute, as well as our amazing volunteer Wildlife Ambassadors and partners who help us with achieving our goal of reducing negative human-wildlife interactions in the Bow Valley,” he said.

“Finally, I would like to give a big thanks to our community for their continued support of the WildSmart Program and for voting for us.”

For more information on the WildSmart program, visit their Facebook page or the