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Unlocked garbage carts the only barrier to Castlegar achieving Bear Smart status

Contributor
By Contributor
July 17th, 2018

What is the only thing standing between the City of Castlegar and Official Bear Smart Status? Unlocked and unsecured bear-resistant garbage carts.

A recent meeting between City officials, local Conservation Officer Ben Beetlestone, Wildlife Conflict Manager for the Conservation Officer Service, Mike Badry, and WildSafeBC identified the number of improperly stored garbage carts in the community as the last issue that needs to be addressed before Bear Smart Status can be achieved.

The Bear Smart Community program is a voluntary conservation strategy, designed by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The goal is to address the root causes of human-bear conflicts, thereby reducing the risks to human safety and private property, as well as the number of bears that have to be destroyed each year. Once a municipality has fulfilled a series of six criteria, they may apply for Bear Smart Community designation.

The City of Castlegar has been working towards Bear Smart Status since 2015 and submitted an official application in January, 2018. According to Michael Badry, “Castlegar has made tremendous progress in reducing human-bear conflicts through implementation of the Bear Smart Communities Program. Their continuous education program delivered by WildSafeBC, adoption of bear-resistant bins, and management of fruit trees and other attractants has gone a long way to reducing conflicts, keeping bears wild and people safe.” Other highlights from recent years include a comprehensive Wildlife Attractant Bylaw, an updated Bear Hazard Assessment and Bear Conflict Management Plan and an amended Official Community Plan that reflects the goal of reducing human-wildlife conflict. Considerable efforts have been made in recent years to keep garbage inaccessible to bears through a City-wide bear resistant residential garbage cart program, bear-resistant public garbage cans, communal dumpsters in high-risk neighbourhoods and strict regulations around the storage of garbage and collection day practices.

 “With all of these great initiatives in place, unsecured garbage should be a thing of the past in Castlegar,” suggests WildSafeBC Coordinator, Jenny Wallace. “Unfortunately, we are seeing far too many cases of people leaving these carts outside, unlocked which is really hurting the success of this program.” In fact, in a recent audit of high-conflict neighbourhoods, as many as 30% of households were storing their cart outside, unlocked (Arrow Lakes Drive neighbourhood). Once a bear has gotten food reward from an unlocked garbage cart, it is far more likely to break into locked carts in the future.

So far this season in Castlegar, 48 bear sightings and conflicts have been reported to the Conservation Officer Service and more than half of these have been garbage-related. According to Conservation Officer Ben Beetlestone, “In neighbourhoods where residents are storing their garbage carts securely, we simply aren’t getting the bear conflict calls. The conflict is happening in areas where garbage carts are being left unlocked outside.”

The safest place for garbage is still inside a locked building. For residents that must store their cart outside, it must have both clips locked at all times between collection days and should be chained to a secure anchor point to prevent a bear dragging the whole cart away. 

WildSafeBC will be canvassing neighbourhoods identified as “high-risk”, based on bear conflict reports and the incidence of bear-damaged carts, reminding residents that careful attractant management is the only real long-term solution to human-bear conflict. The City of Castlegar Bylaw Officer will also be patrolling these neighbourhoods, checking for unlocked garbage carts and other infractions under the Wildlife Attractant Bylaw.

“Castlegar has a real opportunity to be a leader in managing community wildlife attractants and reducing human-bear conflict,” says Wallace. “So much has been done already and we have some really incredible tools in place- we just need everyone to jump on board and do their part. Please, please lock those garbage carts.”

Categories: General

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