Smithers Town council discussed possible solutions to the issue of bear safety at their June 26 meeting.
Council members offered solutions ranging from bear-proof modifications on garbage cans to bylaw amendments, as well as increased public education.
The discussion arose after Conservation officer Kevin Nixon’s presentation on bear-human conflict at their previous meeting on June 12. Numerous bears have been destroyed in Smithers this year, including one that recently got into a home.
“I think the thing that felt like, in a sense, was the most doable was amending our garbage bylaw to prohibit people from putting out their cans the night before … The other thing that was pretty tangible that we talked about was allocating a bit of money so [director of works & operations Roger Smith] could buy some of these clamps that would go overtop of the garbage can and make it not bear-proof but bear-frustrating,” Mayor Taylor Bachrach summarized.
“To change a bylaw, to go through all that when it’s A: not the main problem and B: it’s not enforceable, it seems to me to be a little bit chasing down the wrong path. I believe that, for example, a bylaw against feeding wildlife would go a long way,” Coun. Frank Wray said.
“If garbage was the problem then I’d be all for it, but that’s not the problem. The problem is not picking fruit off the trees on time, and the problem is actually feeding wildlife as well.”
A motion was put forward by Coun. Phil Brienesse for the staff to do research into bear-proof garbage can options and present them at the next budget cycle.
“We’re only four or five years into an expected 10-year average lifecycle. I’m not really 100 percent sure I want to send a signal to the next budget that we need to be buy a bunch more new cans already,” said Wray.
The motion was carried with Coun. Wray opposed.
Coun. Shelley Browne suggested including an insert on bear safety in tax notices, and Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill said the information available at smithers.ca should be more accessible.
“There’s a lot of good information on our website, but it doesn’t jump at one. Perhaps in spring, when bears are coming out of hibernation, and then again toward the end of summer … maybe a button or something on the [front page] that just says, ‘this is an easy place to find that information,’ ” Atrill suggested.
“If we heard again next November that there was a number of bears destroyed in the community directly related to people improperly storing fruit, or pet food, or chicken feed, I think it’d be horribly disappointing. I mean, that’s pure human behaviour, and I think we really have to tackle that,” she said.
Information on bear safety can be found under news and notices at the Town website smithers.ca, or at wildsafebc.com.