The City of Rossland is targeting the human element of its bear problem with a revised bylaw.
A recent number of bear deaths due to unsecured garbage and attractants has raised concerns in the community.
WildSafe BC community coordinator of the Rossland Bear Smart Task Force, Sue Wrigley, was astounded by the lack of care in dealing with garbage, fruit trees, and other attractants that can habituate bears (Rossland News, Nov. 2). By mid-October at least five bears had been shot, and counting.
The Rossland News asked Rossland Mayor Andy Morel what the city was doing to reduce bear encounters?
“We are trying to get BearSmart status which was a previous council wish, and this council supported it,” said Morel. “We’ve gone to the community to try and educate, remove, and reduce attractants, minimize bear interaction; and its’ not just bears because it’s all wildlife.
“Just do a better job of dealing with garbage, compost, birdfeeders, you name it.”
City council also adopted the Wildlife Attractant Control Bylaw at its October 3 meeting, which gives the city more teeth in dealing with residents who are not bear aware or taking the necessary steps to reduce attractants and wildlife encounters.
The Bear Facts: The Bylaw will roll out a new penalty structure that introduces more than double the number of infractions to regulate refuse and wildlife attractants from the previous 2016 bylaw.
The city implemented a $50 fine for putting out refuse containers outside designated times (at night) or failure to remove containers before the designated time (7 p.m.). The penalty is the same for making birdfeeders accessible to wildlife, using birdfeeders outside the designated time, and improperly maintaining your barbecue.
The bylaw forbids residents from having birdfeeders from March 1 to Nov. 30.
A $100 fine can be issued for failing to secure a refuse enclosure or container properly, letting your container fall into disrepair, leaving outdoor food containers accessible to wildlife, and leaving grease, antifreeze, paint or petroleum products accessible.
Residents can be charged $200 for feeding wildlife, attracting large carnivores, leaving out fruit/nut attractants, and irresponsible camping activity. A $300 fine can be issued to commercial, industrial, institutional and tourist accommodators, and multi-family residential dwellings who fail to store refuse properly.
The penalties are intended to see a drop in wildlife encounters and reduce the number of bear deaths, and Morel hopes the adoption of a BearSmart community will see an improvement.
“If you hear there’s that number of bears that have been shot again in the community, and I say again, because it’s not the first year,” said Morel. “It is an ongoing issue.”
According to thefurbearers.com, a wildlife conservation group, from 2015-2022 there were a total of 45 bears shot in Rossland, compared to 52 in Trail, 58 in Castlegar, and 85 in Nelson. While there were just three killed in Rossland last year, Conservation Ofiicers put down 12 bears in 2021.
In all, COs killed 500 bears in BC in 2022, and 4,279 black bears from 2015-22.
“If a bear keeps coming back and hanging around, call a CO,” urged Wrigley. “Call before the bear escalates its behaviour to other things that will keep it there.
“The CO will work with you to determine why the bear is hanging around and/or they will call the WildSafeBC coordinator to visit to figure it out.”
Critter Resistant Green Bins: The Green Bin program provided all Greater Trail properties with a critter resistant green refuse container to dispose of compostable materials. It is believed by some to have exacerbated the problem with bears and garbage.
“The compost bin rollout was in some ways unfortunate in the timing,” said Morel. “While the compost might have highlighted some of the problems, the problem is general refuse or garbage, and those bears were garbage bears already.”
The Green Bin program, which rolled out in October, has caused some consternation for residents. Many are confused by what goes in it, some of which has not been considered green, and the required tags that residents must purchase for garbage bags.
Morel says Rosslanders haven’t had as difficult time adjusting, given their previous garbage service also required tags. He also noted that if one practices the full extent of composting and recycling properly, they will notice a sharp decline in what actually goes into the landfill.
“I’ve been composting for 20 years in Rossland and I have an electrified compost unit in the backyard, and we haven’t had stinky garbage in our home for decades,” added Morel. “And the amount of garbage, because we also recycle all our plastics now, we might have a garbage bag a year, if that.”
The Mayor encourages everyone to do their part and ensure their fruit trees and gardens are harvested, their garbage secure.