Insp. Barbara Leslie made one thing clear to city council off the top Monday.
“People teach bears bad habits,” the official with the Conservation Officer Service said in introducing information about ongoing human-bear conflicts in the city. Council was looking at a proposal to work toward provincial Bear Smart status.
“The three biggest problem areas, year after year,” Leslie said, “are garbage, fruit trees and bird feeders.”
A report from city parks and solid waste services manager Flavio Viola noted the city has achieved three of the six criteria for Bear Smart status. The proposal would see bylaw amendments to comply with the other three, including prohibiting ripened fruit from a tree to accumulate on the tree or ground, prohibiting placing bird feeders where they are easily accessible by bears, and prohibiting placing solid waste out for collection prior to 4 a.m. on the day of collection.
“We’re not telling people they can’t have fruit trees,” Leslie assured Coun. Don Basserman, who raised a concern about that portion. “If you’re going to use fruit, manage it properly. If you’re not going to use it yourself, look at other options, such as picking it before it ripens or arranging with a local group to come and pick it.”
Coun. Dave Wilbur asked whether thought had been given to placing bear attractants close to their winter sleeping areas, so as to get them accustomed to being in that area for food rather than coming into the city. Leslie said that had been tried in other areas, and presented a couple of problems.
“Bears are not very tolerant of each other,” she said. “They can sort of stand being near their own family, but concentrating bears in an area will lead to trouble. Wildlife biologists are not in favour of artificial feeding.
“The best thing we can do is re-educate the bears to be afraid of people.”
Conservation officer Gary van Spengen agreed, saying, “They start to lose that fear of us and, unfortunately, the bear always loses.”
Council agreed unanimously to have staff develop the required bylaw amendments.