The email coming into the newsroom earlier this month about the brazen bear in the Balfour area was pretty random, but it turned out to be a story that tossed even more fuel on a debate that’s been going on in this community for some time. It doesn’t seem like there is much hope for a winner.
Fellow Star reporter Sam Van Schie and I saw the email at the same time, she was instantly excited. I too thought the story was interesting, but what was exciting is that it had potential to prove a point on my behalf in a newsroom squabble against editor Bob Hall that we’d had a few days prior. We delight in any argumentative ammunition when Hall is involved.
To tell more details about this particular argument is likely to get me scolded. But then, being a mom of three, I do plenty of scolding myself and it’s likely time a bit comes back my direction.
So here’s a confession. When the Nelson Police Department warned Rosemont residents they should have their garbage properly secured because a bear had been frequenting the area a week earlier, I scoffed in annoyance at that particular bear’s return and admitted to not storing our garbage in a bear-proof container or locked storage. Hall was incensed at my folly.
My argument was that this bear spent the better part of a day in our neighbourhood last year including a day next door, unafraid of the band of kids making mayhem. It was a nuisance despite having never foraged through our garbage. Our garbage has only been spread about once in 12 years at our current residence. That was eight years ago. We keep it in a container with a lid that is held snug by “thing-a-ma-doobers”. It’s generally tucked up under a roof and behind bikes, scooters, etc. We don’t have a locked closet, basement, storage shed or otherwise to store our garbage. I suppose one could be built but if we’re building things at my house, I’d like it to be a dishwasher.
As Hall made an impassioned plea for the bruins, I agreed that bears are lovely creatures but some would get into trouble no matter what people did. We live in their habitat. Then, I brought up a beef of mine and suggested the city collect garbage more than every other week during bear season, so those of us without a place to store our garbage would have a better chance of finding a Bear-Aware-approved location. If pick-up were once a week, our garbage could remain in the cupboard under the sink.
A week later when I spoke to the homeowner who had that brazen bear break into her downstairs through a garage to get her garbage that was stored inside, I felt somewhat vindicated. The woman shared her story because she thought people should know that a determined bear was no match for man-made structures. So, if a bear really wants my garbage, the bear will get it.
So how common are home break-ins? Joanne A. Siderius — Ph.D., R.P.Bio., Nelson, Areas E and F WildSafeBC community coordinator — told me that they are “not common, but certainly do happen a few times a year.” She explained bears that break in may be used to eating human food and/or used to humans and not likely to run from people.
“So, the bear has learned from the community where to find garbage and to follow its nose even into people’s homes because it has lost its fear of humans.”
She suggested the neighbourhood may need to manage garbage better.
“So, no one will ever know what the bear was thinking, but those are my thoughts on the matter,” she said.
I liked her completely un-random use of thinking and thought – clever.
Siderius is more than aware that many people do not have storage space for their garbage. She was at Monday night’s city council meeting addressing that very issue. Her suggestion is using bear-resistant garbage cans. As part of a group order, they cost $224.
We live in a mountain community in territory that was once open terrain for bears and all the other wildlife that makes our area’s forests home. The answers to coexisting with bears are not easy. The questions posed in the debate just as tough.
The mayor’s suggestion at Monday night? A bear cull. I’m not sure about that, but would agree the fate of our Rosemont bear is not a pleasant one though likely necessary. Brazen in itself perhaps. But until a bulletproof solution is found, the debate over what to do with bears in the city will continue.
Kirsten Hildebrand is a reporter at the Nelson Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org