City of Revelstoke responds to bear deaths

Acting mayor Trevor English calls shooting of three bears by Conservation Officer in Revelstoke "very unfortunate."

A black bear feasts on some garbage in Revelstoke.

The City of Revelstoke responded to the killing of three bears by the Conservation Officer in Revelstoke on Tuesday, with acting mayor Trevor English calling the incidents “very unfortunate” and said “we are saddened that they happened.”

He said public safety was the city’s main priority and that residents must take steps to ensure bears aren’t drawn into the community.

“The city encourages residents to be responsible with securing garbage, obeying bylaws, recycling, harvesting fruit and composting,” he wrote in an e-mail responding to questions from the Review. “We live in a mountain town and we should all be extra careful to not create situations that attract bears into our community.”

When asked what steps were being taken to prevent human-bear conflict, he pointed to the work of Bear Aware and changes to the solid waste bylaw which allow for residents to fined for not properly securing garbage or putting it out too early.

As for bear-proof garbage cans, he said a pilot program in Johnson Heights showed problems.

“The garbage cans did not work well in the winter because they froze and the latches would not close and would break,” English wrote. “A few people reported missing cans as bears were taking them into the bush.”

In fact, the 2009 pilot-program was considered a success by Revelstoke Bear Aware. “There’s essentially no bears in Johnson Heights,” co-ordinator Jeannette Vickers told the Review in September 2011. “We’re advocating for the city to purchase these cans city-wide.”

English said the problems with the cans showed up over time, when the locking mechanisms started to break.

“They were too heavy to manually lift and bears were removing the cans from properties,” he said in response to a follow-up e-mail.

The cost of the bear-proof garbage cans was also an issue. Back in 2011, the city budgeted $500,000 to purchase them city-wide in 2014, however it never followed through on that.

Last fall, when the city sought proposals for private garbage collection, Bresco came back with a bid that would have cost each household more than $250 per year for an automated collection system using bear-proof garbage bins — more than double what residents actually pay.

The city recently moved to a centralized, bear-proof garbage bin in Johnson Heights and is considering installing them in other neighbourhoods.

“The Conservation Officers have had no complaints in Johnson Heights this year, which is usually a problem area,” said English. “Public works verified this as well. The cost savings is a bonus.”

English, who chairs the city’s security committee and also sits on the public works committee, said he will be raising the bear issue at both committees’ next meetings.

We will need to dedicate more resources to bylaw enforcement to enforce what attractant bylaws we have,” he said. “We will also need to direct resources to public works to come up with solutions that are realistic and workable.”

Centralized bins will be required at higher-density developments, like the ones proposed for Nichol Road and Track Street.

“The city takes the wildlife conflicts very seriously and will strive to improve the awareness and responsibility of the businesses and residents in our community in a effort to protect both the residents and the bears from these types of situations,” he said.

Lastly, English said the city requested to discuss the return of the Conservation Officer to Revelstoke with Mary Polak, the Minister of the Environment, at the Union of BC Municipalities conference in September.

 

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