The Executive Director of North Shore Black Bear Society, Christine Miller, will be retiring this month after 15 years of dedicated service to the community.
Miller is handing over reins to another committed and well-informed education coordinator, Luci Cadman.
“It was a perfect time to move on and allow Luci and the Board of Directors to determine the Society’s future directions,” Miller said.
Trying to reduce preventable bear deaths on the North Shore has been a primary focus of Miller’s life for the last 15 years.
In 2005, Norma Rodgers, Miller’s friend from Lions Bay, told she was spending a lot of time supporting the bear group in Lions Bay.
Curious, Miller attended a volunteer meeting to learn about the conservation efforts of residents here.
When she recognized that bear deaths could be reduced with education about wildlife attractants in residential areas, she was hooked and started learning gradually about the provincial Bear Aware program, now called WildSafeBC.
Over the years, Millers developed or expanded a variety of educational outreach activities.
She took educational displays to community events, made presentations to audiences of all ages, made home visits, installed bear-in-area signs, sent information packages to new homeowners and even conducted nighttime patrols for waste.
She says the society has made a significant difference to the understanding, respect and tolerance of black bears.
In 1999 when the North Shore Black Bear Network was formed, 39 bears were killed on the North Shore.
In 2020, five bears were killed by the Conservation Officers Service and at least two bears died as a result of being hit by a vehicle.
There are many reasons for this decline in preventable deaths including the multi-faceted education outreach of the Society, she says.
“I think one of my most important accomplishments was establishing and maintaining strong working partnerships with staff in the three North Shore municipalities,” Miller says.
“The consistent messaging and support that resulted were significant contributors to increased co-existence of people and wildlife on Vancouver’s North Shore.”
Miller was given the Award of Honour from the District of North Vancouver “for outstanding commitment to leadership and education at the North Shore Black Bear Society and in the community” presented by Mayor Richard Walton in November 2017.
In June 2019, on behalf of the Society, both Luci Cadman and Miller also received a Living City Award for Sustainability in recognition for “commitment to environmental awareness” by CNV Mayor Linda Buchanan.
Recently, the Society was also selected for the Fur-Bearers Clements Award for the category of Outstanding Organization, to be presented virtually in February 2021.
The Clements Awards was created in honour of long-time directors and leaders of The Fur-Bearers, George and Bunty Clements, to recognize outstanding work of wildlife advocates.
Miller says she plans to celebrate the time and energy that retirement will provide to develop some personal interests and pursue other options for serving the local community and province.
“I will continue to contribute to the local community associations and Block Watch, for a start. On a broader scale, I will keep on encouraging changes to environmental policies and procedures within our province,” she says.