Bears and Garbage in the Kootenays – 2010

Bears are a common problem in Kootenay towns, and it seems that Castlegar is making the news – because the Conservation Officers are shooting bears.

Some area residents were “horrified” to see three black bears killed in a north Castlegar backyard last Friday, but conservation officers say they were left with no other option.

There were several reasons the sow and her two cubs had to be destroyed late Friday afternoon, according to Arnold DeBoon, West Kootenay Sgt. of Conservation Officer Services. He said the three bears were the subject of many complaints, they were near a school and there were many people around.

Castlegar News – Residents ‘horrified,’ council vows to act after three bears killed

The news that made the provincial papers this week was that Castlegar’s Mayor was appalled to hear that 60 bears had been shot in the region this season. These 60 bears are over the whole West Kootenay region, not just in Castlegar, and much of the activity is outside of Casltegar. The spin in this story (and I hate spin) is that only a dozen bears were killed in 2009, without mentioning that in 2008 over 50 bears were killed. In a way, the stories infer that there is mismanagement of how we deal with bears, and the mandate of the Conservation Officers – but the truth is that we are fully responsible as residents for how we manage bear attractants. The Mayor states, “This is my biggest issue — people leaving garbage out”, he said, “We are the problem”.

I have a feeling that some people in these communities report a bear that may be an inconvenience, but otherwise isn’t causing an problems. We see bears often at our house, and it is only if garbage is mismanaged or fruit trees are left unpicked that they will become pests. Sure, this year alone they’ve broken an apple tree and fencing wire in our backyard, but they have not been a threat or a “problem”. However, bears can get aggressive, and they do get a taste for garbage at this point, it seems that there are few options available, and shooting them is one of the easiest. Groups like Bear Smart advocate non-lethal methods of dealing with problem bears. One of the methods they promote is the use of electric fences to control access to unavoidable attractants like bee hives, orchards or long term hunting camps. We’ve considered the use of an electric fence in our back yard to control access to our fruit trees, and compost.

Trashy Bear

The anger that the residents in these articles are feeling shouldn’t be directed at the Conservation Officer, maybe it should be directed at their neighbors who have left attractants out like garbage bags or unpicked fruit. Even then, sometimes bears just enjoy a particular tree or neighbourhood and will make it their home, whether we like it or not – but just because it is there doesn’t make it a pest.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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