Even though wildlife conflicts were down in 2018, Castlegar still has a ways to go before it can achieve Bear Smart Community status.
Conflicts have been decreasing ever since Castlegar introduced mandatory bear-resistent garbage carts in 2016. But according to WildsafeBC’s Castlegar co-ordinator Jenny Wallace, the biggest obstacle is the lack of community participation in managing attractants.
“Despite community-wide bear-resistant garbage carts, there has been a big issue with residents storing carts outside, unlocked and accessible to bears,” said Wallace in her annual report.
Placing unlocked carts out on the curb the night before collection also continues to be a problem.
The City of Castlegar has been actively pursuing Bear Smart Community Status since 2015 and officially submitted an application to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in November 2017.
Wallace and the city are working together to try and tackle the problems and achieve the Bear Smart goal.
“In order to encourage responsible attractant management, a protocol for responding to bear issues was established to ensure education and bylaw enforcement are utilized effectively,” said Wallace.
“Once compliance with the Wildlife Attractant Bylaw is achieved on a wider scale, Castlegar will be very well poised for Official Bear Smart Community designation.”
WildSafeBC and the city are now using a shared spreadsheet for tracking bear attractant issues. This combines incidents reported to the city, to WildSafeBC or noticed on neighbourhood patrols into one location.
A new response protocol has also been implemented.
After a report is made, the first step is for WildSafeBC to canvass the neighbourhood, reaching out with educational materials. If the problem continues, the city bylaw office will issue a warning letter. If that fails to solve the problem, the a bylaw ticket will be issued. Wildlife attractant fines start at $100.
If the problem persists, the Conservation Officer Service will be notified.
Unlocked garbage carts aren’t the only problem. Wallace says that unpicked domestic fruit trees were responsible for the majority of conflicts throughout the region this fall.
She would like to see a revitalization of the local fruit gleaning movement to help address the issue. “Providing fresh fruit for local families — not bears.”
Wallace also warned that bears are not the only animals that we need to pay attention to.
“While human-bear conflict remained the most significant wildlife issue in the area, conflict with coyotes, elk, cougars and bobcats was also reported with these animals being drawn into residential areas by gardens, pets, livestock and animal feed,” said Wallace.
She said that another recurring challenge is the lack of bylaws regulating the management of wildlife attractants in the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
“Without a Wildlife Attractant Bylaw, there are limited consequences for residents that continually leave attractants accessible to wildlife outside of city limits.”