Bear bylaws to be enforced with fines
City council, at its regular meeting Monday night, decided that public education isn’t doing the trick and it’s time to start enforcing bylaws meant to reduce the amount of unsecured garbage drawing hungry bears into the city.
The issue arose after remarks made by Mayor Lawrence Chernoff drew national media attention, shedding an uncomfortable spotlight on the fact that 73 bears have been shot in and around Castlegar this season (compared to about a dozen last year), with conservation officers fielding as many as 1,400 complaints, not including those called in to police.
“We’re prepared to have better enforcement in the community,” Chernoff said, adding fines can reach up to $2,000 and will most certainly get the attention of those residents still attracting bears into town with unsecured garbage.
Councillor Deb McIntosh said more than two years of public education and promotion of bear-safe practices hasn’t gotten the message through, so it’s time to take more definitive action.
“It’s unfortunate that it has to come to that, but if that’s what it takes for some people to understand we’re serious …,” she said. “Having all these bears shot because of our stupidity is just not the way to go.”
Conservation Officer Peter Busink said the situation is, for him, frustrating in that it is so unneccessary.
“We wouldn’t have a problem if people would just manage their bear attractants,” he said. “If there’s no food, the bears will move on.”
He said he’s pleased city council is looking at fining residents who are not exercising due dilligence, and if it translates into him having to shoot fewer bears, that would be, “fantastic”.
“That’s definitely the worst part of our job; having to shoot the bears,” he said.
He encouraged anyone who sees a bear to contact the RAPP line, 24 hours a day seven, days a week, at 1-877-952-7277.