June 19th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 25
How we can fix the bear problems
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
David Selles
Pass Herald Reporter
Bears are once again entering the community this spring.

Fish and Wildlife Officer, John Clarke, says this spring has been quite different from previous years.

“We've had a really odd spring. Usually we don't have a lot of bear problems in the spring because things green up and then they go off into the mountains. For some reason we suddenly had a big influx of bears into the community. It's a concern because they're a little close to houses and things like that.”

On Thursday, June 13th, Christy Pool and Mandy Brown of BearSmart, John Clarke, Fire Chief Jesse Fox, Peace Officer Grant Love and Sergeant Greg Wiebe all sat down for a meeting to discuss ways to educate the public and ensure the community stays safe.

“The main thing that has come out is an alignment through a collaborative process through Fish and Wildlife, BearSmart, protective services and law enforcement. Rather than us all working and stumbling on our own to figure out how we can address this issue. It's to get on the same page. Sitting down face-to-face on the betterment of this process,” said Fox.

Clarke says the key is communication between everyone in the community.

“How can we make the community safer and at the same time deal with the animals? We want people working with their neighbours. We want interaction with everyone in their neighbourhoods to try keep it safe for the wildlife and the people.”

The main way these groups see that happening is through education.
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“We are trying to do an education first component. We are all here to protect the public and make Crowsnest Pass what it is so there is an education component that we have already been doing prior to this meeting. Continuing forward we'll do that as well,” said Peace Officer Love.

Education is where BearSmart comes into the picture.

“If residents are not sure or if they need assistance in figuring out what it is that's causing the bear to attend their property that they're always welcome to give us a call. We'll assist them with those means and assist them if they need a garbage can or something like that,” said Christy Pool of BearSmart.

“It's important that the community understands that the message being brought forward is about understanding and respect of living in a `wildlife corridor where you're going to interact with wildlife not matter what kind of wildlife it is. Our mission going forward is to teach safe coexistence and respectful coexistence. Not to scare people or create a fear among the public of these animals because honestly, with respect they're pretty easy to manage. We want to go forward and say that wildlife live here. They're all through here. This is a major natural wildlife corridor,” said Pool.

Sergeant Wiebe says that education works in steps.

“Strategy would be education through media, community groups such as BearSmart, enforcement agencies and then education through notices of shortcomings. It's a tiered process. Community minded, education through paper, through different agencies and then as a last resort enforcement.”
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One thing BearSmart hopes to be able to implement soon is bear bins.

According to Pool, these bins would go a long way to solving the problems the Crowsnest Pass is facing.

“In the perfect world, everyone would be able to have a bear resistant garbage can. We really recommend those because they alleviate all the problems right from the go. That being said, we do understand that they're kind of expensive so we do have a program within BearSmart that can allow the use of loan containers to give a time period to save up and get their own or make arrangements that fit their lifestyle. Now keeping that garbage contained actually eliminates a lot of problems not just for that person but for the whole surrounding community.”

When it comes to community members who aren’t taking precautions, Peace Officer Love says there are bylaws in place to deal with it but that handing them a ticket doesn’t solve the problem.

“The writing of municipal bylaw ticket doesn't fix the problem. Fish and Wildlife, BearSmart and myself have been going around on complaints or altercations speaking with residents and residents have received warning letters with copies of the relevant bylaws. They also received reminders that went with the utility bills as well.”

The main attractant for bears and other wildlife is garbage that has been left in the open and Love says that even if there’s no food for the bears in the bags, they can still attract wildlife and need to be stored away to prevent encounters.
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“We discussed that wildlife are seeing garbage bags regardless if you have food items in them or construction materials in them, the animals are just attracted to the bag now because maybe nine times out of ten they've ripped these bags open and it's had some goodies inside. No matter what you're putting out, it should still be contained until the garbage is collected.”

The group also encourages residents to communicate with eachother if they notice a problem in their neighbourhoods.

“If you have a problem with your neighbour, be community minded and approach your neighbour,” said Sergeant Wiebe.

Sergeant Wiebe also says that simply being good citizens can prevent encounters with wildlife.

“Things like picking up the fruit if you have a fruit tree and the fruit is falling on the ground or harvesting the fruit. Watching bird feeders with regards to scatter come off the feeders. Sweet things like pop cans under a deck that you might be storing that have open access to an animal. Just things that can be mitigated as a homeowner and help minimize the issue just by being good citizens.”

If communicating with your neighbours doesn’t solve the issue, it’s important to go through the proper channels rather than simply posting a bear sighting on social media.

“Reporting bears on Facebook, which brings everybody out to see the bear is another problem. They need to be reporting it to fish and wildlife so they can deal with it without a whole bunch of people potentially in danger,” said Many Brown, another BearSmart member.
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“What we're finding is that people are just posting on Facebook and tagging either John or myself asking if we're coming. He may not always get those so it's best to report a bear to fish and wildlife directly and not expect a response because you've put my name or John's name on Facebook.”

Fire Chief Fox says that a complaint only becomes real when it’s properly formalized and goes through the correct channels.

Peace Officer Love says the best way to make a bylaw complaint is through the municipality’s website.

“People can go to the Crowsnest Pass website and make a bylaw complaint. It will take them a couple of minutes, there's an email address, which is required because I'd like to let people know it's being investigated. They don't get to know the ins and outs of it but I do let them know it has been investigated. There's no need to flood the municipal office with phone calls. The best way to report things is through the website.”

According to Fish and Wildlife Officer Clarke, some people avoid phoning him because they are worried about the outcome.

““Sometimes people don't phone us because they think we'll just show up and kill the bear. We want to move the bear off. We don't just show up and kill the bears. That's not us.”

The group will continue to look at further ways to educate the public but for the meantime, Sergeant Wiebe says communication is key through this process.

“Use the appropriate mechanisms in place for reporting it so that it can be dealt with otherwise it doesn't get dealt with.”
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June 19th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 25
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