WildSafe BC’s provincial coordinator visited city council on June 23 to propose spending approximately $4,000 to bear-proof four key garbage receptacles in Nelson.
“We’re on track to setting a record in the past five years for the most bears being reported,” said Frank Ritcey. “It’s an issue, and it needs to be addressed.”
He said the bottom line is that the more bear-resistant cans they can install, the fewer bears will have to be destroyed. Last year they euthanized approximately 350 province-wide, down from over a thousand in 1999. He said in general bear conflicts have gone down in recent years but in the first few months of 2014 they’ve noticed a spike.
He said putting down bears reflects poorly on the city, and the only way to avoid bear conflicts is to practice attractant management.
“Residents and tourists alike see that as a negative thing,” he said.
He said WildSafe BC would be happy to help Nelson promote this “good news story”, if they decide to go ahead with the new cans. He noted that many communities in the area, including Kaslo, New Denver and Castlegar, have already installed them. Nelson is one of the last communities in the West Kootenay to follow suit, though there are some within the city limits that are built on private property.
Ritcey said this is an opportunity for Nelson to lead by example, in an admittedly minor way. Three of the four cans being discussed are at Lakeside Park, while the fourth is located at the top of Stanley Street.
The can at the top of Stanley Street is unsecured and is visited routinely by a variety of wildlife. It is warped and misshapen, and does not have a lid. Coun. Candace Batycki said the can has been an acknowledged problem for years, but nobody has dealt with it. She called it “embarrassing”.
Council briefly considered going ahead with that one separately, as it’s the most problematic, but eventually dismissed the idea. The Lakeside cans are less likely to attract wildlife, but will be more visible to residents and will demonstrate Nelson’s commitment to protecting the wildlife, said Ritcey.
Ritcey brought along conservation officer Jason Hawkes, who spoke about the recent wildlife run-ins that have been happening in town. He reaffirmed the need for the bear-proof garbage cans, and said it would help to convince residents in the area to follow suit.
Coun. Donna Macdonald questioned how Nelson could be considered to be “leading by example” when the average homeowners are unable to spend thousands of dollars on the bear-proofing. She asked whether there were cheaper alternatives.
“There’s new technology coming out all the time,” said Ritcey.
He acknowledged the costs is prohibitively high for the average resident, but nonetheless thinks the city should pull the trigger on this purchase.
Ritcey said ultimately this issue is about protecting our animal neighbours. “It’s our responsibility to the wildlife,” he said.
Council asked staff to bring a solution to the next regular meeting.
The presentation, which included statistics and information about bears, is available online at nelson.civicweb.net.