Better never than late: delayed huckleberry crop drives bears into town

Rachel Selkirk
By Rachel Selkirk
July 14th, 2011

This year the bears have show up fashionably late with almost no sightings being reported until last week.


“It was pretty quiet up until a week ago…all of sudden we’ve had a big spike of bears in town. There’s at least five that I know of that are actively hanging around town at different times of the day,” explain Sharon Weider from Bear Aware.


The bears have been spotted in lower Rossland, Columbia Ave, and around the Centennial trailhead. A late start to spring and summer is likely the cause for the bears’ late arrival, but Weider expects the bear activity to be steady from this point forward.


“Last year, there was a lot of bear interaction in town because there was hardly any fruit or berries available,” explained Weider.


This year it looks like there will be a “robust berry crop” for local bears to feast on, but a late start to the season could mean more bear encounters in the coming weeks. “The late berries this year will probably result in more bear activity in town than normal this time of year until the berries are ripe.”


Now that bears are lounging and scrounging around Columbia Avenue, the new solar-powered bear-proof garbage bins will really be put to the test.


The bins, which are being rented until September, offer an attractive and safe way to dispose of garbage downtown. The sides of the bins are covered with historic photos and Weider reports they’ve been generally well-received.


“Lots of people like the look and they’re surprised at how well they fit in on the street. I think they were expecting something big and ugly.”


So far, the new bins are no showing any signs of bear infiltration. “I check them when I go by to see if there’s any sign. You can tell when a bear will try to get into something because there will be scratch marks and that kind of thing. I haven’t seen anything yet.”


The bins will continue to be monitored by general public surveillance, Weider, and the City of Rossland.


“The City is maintaining them while they’re here, so they’re the ones keeping an eye on them.”


After September the future of the bear proof bins is unclear, but Weider hopes they will be worked into the new Columbia Ave plan.


The new recycle bins are “getting quite a lot of use,” reports Weider. Right now, she is emptying the bins and putting the proceeds back into Bear Aware programs and services.


If recycle bins are purchased for Columbia Ave, “It would be up to the city to decide” where the proceeds go and who collects them. Other regions have had “non-profit groups maintain them, keep the profits, and give a percentage back to the region.”


Coming up later this month, Bear Aware is hosting an electric fence workshop at the Trail Aquatic Centre.


“It will talk about ways to manage fruit trees, gardens, and general property stuff to keep the bears out of – an electric fence is really effective. We’ll also have some information on composting and household garbage cans.”


The workshop is free, but participants must register before the workshop date of July 25th by calling Sharon Weider at 250-231-2751.

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