Revelstoke Bear Aware coordinator Janette Vickers teaches students bear awareness at the Kokanee Fish Festival at Bridge Creek on Friday. The annual festival featured a lots of activities and displays for grade 2 students by groups including Revelstoke Bear Aware

Garbage still the big human problem for bears

City bumps back budget for bear-proof cans to 2014; in the meantime, managing your garbage is the best, cheapest solution

Revelstoke Bear Aware is appealing for help from the community to prevent the needless destruction of bears in Revelstoke.

“Garbage is the number one bear attractant in Revelstoke. It always has been,” says Revelstoke Bear Aware coordinator Janette Vickers.

This year there have been 123 reported sightings in Revelstoke, up from 83 last year. Eight have been destroyed this year. Seven were garbage-habituated bears and the other was due to an attack on a dog. Bear Aware is urging residents to follow proper garbage procedures. This means only putting your cans out after 6 a.m. on garbage days and bringing the cans in by 7 p.m. It also means storing them inside or in a secure building at other times.

In 2010, 65 per cent of bear complaints were due to garbage. Fruit was second at 17 per cent and livestock third at four per cent.

All other complaints came in the one- to three-per-cent range. They include pet food, outdoor freezers, compost, bird feeders, grain on the train tracks and kokanee in Bridge Creek.

Garbage compliance varies neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Bear Aware conducts late-night garbage can stickering campaigns, returning on garbage days for three-week periods. Compliance is good in Arrow Heights, and okay in Southside and the Big Eddy, and a little worse in north Revelstoke. However, it was poor in central Revelstoke. 67 tags were handed out, more than triple the 20 for north Revelstoke.

What about bear-proof garbage cans?

A bear-proof garbage can program has been implemented in Johnson Heights, starting in 2009 when about 65 cans were put in place. “There’s essentially no bears in Johnson Heights,” Vickers said. Before the bear-proof cans, sightings and destruction were common in that remote neighbourhood. “We’re advocating for the city to purchase these cans city-wide.”

For the rest of Revelstoke, it will be some years before the bear-proof cans arrive on your curb. For the 32-gallon model used in Johnson Heights, the per-unit cost is around $250.

During the budget process in the spring, the city had earmarked $55,000 per year from 2011 to 2015 for a phased implementation of the bear-proof cans across Revelstoke. However, during a waste committee meeting last week, the plan was changed. Public works manager Darren Komonoski explained the budget was revised. The city has now budgeted $500,000 for 2014 so the bear-proof cans can be purchased at once. He explained the cans would be cheaper if bought all at once.

‘Bear Smart’ community progress

Squamish and Kamloops are the only two communities in B.C. who have become certified Bear Smart communities under the provincial program.

To become Bear Smart, communities must complete five steps. Revelstoke has done three of five.

Already completed are a bear hazard assessment, a bear/human conflict management plan, and a revision of local government planning documents.

Yet to be completed are a bear-proof solid waste management plan and the implementation of bear-smart bylaws. The latter have been drafted, said Vickers, and are working their way through the system.

What about the garbage scofflaws?

Vickers explained that Revelstoke Bear Aware’s mandate is education. “All we support is people managing bear attractants,” she said. They door-knock at the homes of repeat offenders, and things generally go well, but, “everyone’s got their opinions about bears,” she says.

They’ve also provided the addresses of the repeat offenders to the city’s bylaw control office.

City bylaw enforcement officer Tim Luini was unavailable for comment due to vacation, but a staff member said the department hadn’t been patrolling, enforcing or issuing any fines for the infraction of leaving garbage out other than between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The municipal fine is $50 for the offence, which can be commuted to $25 if paid within 30 days.

Do you think the City of Revelstoke should use existing laws to fine those who break their garbage bylaws? Yes? No? Vote in this week’s online poll on our homepage.