Rosslanders took to Bhubble to voice their concerns after Mayor Kathy Moore posted on her Facebook page that four bears were killed in lower Rossland on Wednesday.
Sgt. Tobe Sprado from the conservation office in Castlegar confirmed that the bears—two adult males and two adults females—were “destroyed” on Wednesday.
“We’ve had numerous complaints of bears breaking into residences in and around Rossland,” said Sprado. “And so one of my officers had set a bear trap at a location in Rossland … [in] the gully in behind Ferraro’s super market.”
One bear was caught in the trap, and the three others were found in the area when the officer went to retrieve the first.
Moore’s post also said that there had been seven bears killed in Rossland this year. Sprado couldn’t confirm that, as he doesn’t keep count for specific municipalities, but he says that so far this year his office has destroyed just under 30 bears.
According to Sprado, the two things drawing the bears into town are garbage and fruit, and due to the drought this year, berries have dried up earlier than usual, pushing bears to seek out an alternate food source.
“So there will be an influx of bears coming into communities, and we expect people to be a little bit more tolerant than they have in the past,” he said.
Sprado says that so far, fires haven’t been driving the bears into town, but his office anticipates that if the wildfires get worse, they could also become a factor.
Asked what people can do to keep bears from coming into their yards, Sprado said “They’ve gotta eliminate the attractants. So specifically, even if the fruit is not ripe, bears are still attracted to that fruit. They’re gonna have to pick that fruit.”
Garbage shouldn’t be left outside before pickup. If for some reason it does need to be left outside, Sprado recommends putting organics into a different bag, and storing it in the deep freeze until garbage day if necessary.
Obviously even if garbage isn’t put out until 7 a.m. on pick up day, there’s still a gap between when the bag is left on the curb, and when it’s picked up.
Sharon Wieder from Wild Safe BC says she’s working on a program to get residential bear-resistant garbage cans into Rossland for those who need them the most, but meanwhile anyone can purchase them online.
If you encounter a bear in town or on a trail, Sprado says to go back the way you came and find a safe location to retreat to.
Asked about the policy for what happens when a bear is reported in town, Sprado said, “Generally if we have a food conditioned bear that’s breaking into homes, causing property damage, [then] yes the conservation officer will set a live bear trap, and will kill that bear.”
This policy sparked an outrage on Bhubble and many posters asked their fellow Rosslanders not to call the conservation office unless a bear was actually endangering someone. Questions were also raised about how many bear attacks, if any, have actually occurred in Rossland.
Mike Badry, wildlife conflict manager, said there have not been any reports of bear attacks in the Rossland area over the past five years, but “there have been five Grizzly bear and four black bear attacks that resulted in human injury (no fatalities) in the Kootenay region.”
Many posters also called on the City of Rossland to do something about the bears being destroyed, but Sprado says that policy is generally set by the provincial government.
The City isn’t responsible for wildlife conflicts—once a bear becomes a problem, it’s out of the City’s hands. What the municipality is responsible for is enforcing measures to keep from attracting bears.
The City has a wildlife attractant bylaw, which prohibits residents from leaving garbage where it can be accessed by wildlife and requires residents to collect fallen fruit at least every three days. Food, bird feed, antifreeze and paint also have to kept out of reach of wildlife. Fines start at $50 and reach $200.
Of course, bylaws in Rossland are usually only enforced on a complaint basis.
So the actions the City can take to prevent bears from coming into town are limited to responding to complaints, making sure that all city garbage cans are bear resistant, and making sure the fruit from city trees is collected.
“It’s not as much a City problem, as it is a personal responsibility of the residents problem,” said Mayor Moore.
Several people were also upset about a comment Moore made on her Facebook page, saying that there is no money for relocation.
But lack of money isn’t why the bears aren’t relocated.
“It’s not an issue of lack of resources, it’s based on science. Science demonstrates that bear relocation does not work,” explained Sprado. “The only time we relocate any bear would be, generally speaking, a Grizzly bear female sow; other bears are generally killed.”
One other exception would be a sow with young of the year cubs.
To help prevent bears from hanging around town Moore and Wieder from Wild Safe BC will be leading a fruit picking party on Saturday, August 29 starting from Maclean School at 10 a.m.