More fines for unsecured garbage may evolve from Bear Smart initiative
WildSafeBC is giving Castlegar the opportunity to be designated a ‘Bear Smart’ community during one of our worst bear seasons in years – and encouraging the city penalize residents who won’t get on board.
“The bear situation in Castlegar right now is crazy, I’ve never received so many phone calls and emails,” WildSafe coordinator Jenny Wallace told city council at its regular meeting Monday night. “Last year and the year before were really quiet because of bumper huckleberry crops.”
She said hot, dry weather this year made the huckleberry crop fail, forcing bears to forage for food in town.
“Conservation officers have been inundated with bear calls,” she said – but she had a suggestion to ease the problem in years to come. Wallace described, to council, a voluntary program designed by the Ministry of Environment for municipalities called Bear Smart. She said only seven communities so far enjoy the title of Bear Smart – the most recent of which is New Denver.
She said communities have to meet six criteria to achieve Bear Smart status, but that Castlegar already meets four of the six. One of the many upsides to the designation is that local conservation officers are currently only allowed lethal intervention with bears (as long as bear attractants remain in the city, the bears will come back), but they would be allowed to consider non-lethal management if Castlegar became officially Bear Smart, having taken action to remove and/or secure attractants.
The four criteria Castlegar has already met are:
1. A bear hazard assessment of the community and surrounding area;
2. A bear conflict management plan;
3. Implement a continuing education program directed at all sectors of the community;
4. Implement Bear Smart bylaws.
The two criteria yet to be met are:
1. Identifying the reduction of wildlife/human conflict as a community priority in Castlegar’s Official Community Plan, and;
2. Develop and maintain a bear-proof municipal solid waste management program.
Wallace went on to offer a series of very simple suggestions for Castlegar to become Bear Smart, one of which is to increase enforcement of its wildlife attractant bylaw. She said there are many repeat offenders who simply decline to secure their attractants (usually garbage or unharvested fruit), and she’s getting calls from their neighbours, who are becoming increasingly frustrated with the failure to comply – a failure which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in property damage.
Councillor Deb McIntosh concurred, saying she thinks council should direct staff to issue more tickets, instead of just warnings, as some residents appear to be merely ignoring public education campaigns.