67% of calls made to the Conservation Officer Service in Fernie between 2013 and 2016, 69% in BC, cite garbage as the bear attractant when noted. Again this spring, bears are baited into town with garbage in the backyard, under the carport, on the deck and causing property damage. This eventually turned into a public safety issue resulting in the death of a bear at the Fernie mobile home park on May 20th. Let’s not forget the defensive bear encounter that occurred on Pine Avenue last March at 4 am. It’s easy to blame someone else, the Conservation Officer who has to pull the trigger, but really every person baiting bears into the neighborhood (with garbage outside between collection days ) is to blame.
I have been asked to work with the City of Fernie to come up with cost effective, achievable solutions to reduce the amount of garbage accessible to wildlife. It is unrealistic to expect that one solution will work for everyone and eradicate human/wildlife conflict altogether. If it was entirely up to me, I would recommend a centralized garbage compactor where there is no curbside collection and everyone takes their household garbage to one place, like in Whistler. This might be a bit drastic for Fernie as many residents enjoy the convenience of curbside collection.
Another option is the bear resistant residential carts. The carts are owned by the district and provided to all residences across the community. This system has proven effective in Squamish and has recently been adopted in Castlegar.
Benefits: Enables everyone to store garbage in a bear resistant container therefore reducing the amount of garbage accessible to bears.
Challenges: It encourages people to keep garbage outdoors. The carts are large and somewhat cumbersome therefore people who previously kept garbage indoors are likely to now leave it outdoors. People may forget to do up the clasps. Clasps may not work very well in our freeze thaw climate. This system requires a fully automated collection truck. Carts used must be certified bear resistant; otherwise bears will learn to break into them. The cost to convert to this system may be in excess of $500 000, that means an approximate increase of %10 in taxes.
An important step in keeping the City of Fernie safe for wildlife and people is to remove barriers and enable residents to conveniently dispose of excess garbage between collection days twenty four hours a day. I am confident that if the City of Fernie is seen to be leading by example, it is reasonable to expect that businesses and residents are more likely to make responsible choices and comply with CONSOLIDATED WASTE REGULATION & REGULATION BYLAW NO.1845.
How about providing residents with a means of conveniently disposing of excess garbage between collection days twenty four hours a day? This involves having front loading, user friendly certified bear resistant communal dumpsters in convenient public locations in designated areas managed by the City of Fernie. To start, two dumpsters, one for the facility and one for public use at city hall, the aquatic centre, community centre/arena and Max Turyk. Eventually, additional dumpsters could be provided in other convenient neighborhood locations.
I am confident that this initiative will enable residents to dispose of garbage responsibly between collection days, especially those who have no garage to store garbage securely. This is also a reasonable option for people who miss garbage day, shift workers, people leaving town and second home owners. Storage of garbage under carports, on porches and in backyards between collection days is the root cause of human/wildlife conflict in Fernie and other communities in BC.
If residents are given reasonable means to dispose of garbage responsibly but choose not to do so then power of enforcement should be applied in accordance with CONSOLIDATED WASTE REGULATION & REGULATION BYLAW NO.1845. Feeding wildlife by intent or neglect is an offence in BC. A combination of the City of Fernie leading by example, providing residents with reasonable means of disposing of garbage twenty four hours a day, education and power of enforcement should result in a cleaner and safer community and reduce the number of bears needlessly destroyed.
I will be presenting a structured plan designed to implement cost effective, achievable solutions to reduce the amount of garbage available to wildlife at the committee of the whole meeting at City Hall in Fernie at 10 am on June 13th. As a resident of Fernie your input is highly valuable, come along and show your support.
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