“My job is public safety, not to protect your garbage.”
Those words from local CO (Conservation Officer) Blair Thin as he patrolled West Trail on Monday following reports of a bear in the neighbourhood.
“We get a lot of complaints from the West Trail area of bears that are causing people concerns,” he said. “Ninety-nine per cent of these complaints we respond and provide advice to, are because of attractants. Bears are in people’s yards because those attractants, are garbage.”
The CO voiced disappointment as he drove along Austad Lane and Binns Street, counting 12 houses that had garbage left out in the open either in a bag or can.
“Three of the houses have, what looks like, a bear had access to the cans and spread garbage all over the yard,” described Thin during a phone conversation with the Trail Times. “I’m actually looking at a place right now that has two garbage cans sitting right beside their garage – the door of the garage is closed, put your cans in there.”
People often call the COs to report a bear in their yard, then ask the officers to come and do something about the situation.
“They say, ‘I don’t understand why you guys aren’t doing something about these bears,’” said Thin. “I contest that and say, we are calling these people back, almost every single one of them, and telling them to secure their attractants – that’s the bottom line. “
Thin was frustrated, noting every other house appeared to have an attractant in the back yard, front yard, or out in the open.
“And just because there’s a lid on your can, that doesn’t mean the garbage is secured,” he pointed out. “I’m driving along and see a lid on the cans but most have bear teeth in them.”
So far the frequent West Trail sightings haven’t led to a bruin being killed. But the Conservation service has already shot two – one in Castlegar, the other in Glenmerry, and both were related to garbage rustling.
“It’s a human cause garbage issue and has nothing to do with a bad bear that’s predatory in nature,” Thin continued. “So if you have a bear that is ‘harassing you,’ that’s using the word the public always uses, then do let us know. But that also means you’ll have to do something different with your attractants.”
Shooting a bear in an urban setting is the last resort.
“A lot of times we do see bears but do not do anything about them” said the CO, noting sightings are mostly in fringe neighbourhoods or built up areas on the mountainside. “I am not going to put anyone’s life at risk (by shooting) in order to protect a garbage bin, so that has to be brought into perspective.”
What Thin can do, is advise complainants (who leave out refuse) that attracting dangerous wildlife to their property is an offence.
“People have a million different reasons why they can’t secure their garbage in some way,” he said. “But what it comes down to is, it’s against the law to keep your garbage unsecured in your yard and it is an offence to attract dangerous wildlife to your premises, simple as that.”
Those found non-compliant can be subject to a $230 ticket.
“If I have to destroy a bear in someone’s back yard that was eating garbage and posing a threat to public safety, then I will charge them,” he said. “It’s hard to say you don’t know a bear is around especially when you live in West Trail, everybody knows the bears are here.”
To report a human wildlife conflict call RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) at 1.877-952.7277.