Sparwood explores tree removal, communal bins and an education program to reduce bear attractants – The Free Press

The District of Sparwood is exploring a handful of municipal initiatives to reduce the risk of human-bear conflict in the area, following a difficult year in 2021 when 17 habituated bears were destroyed in the district.

In a presentation to a committee of the whole on April 5, Director of Community Services Melissa Wiklund detailed four suggested strategies to include in the district’s wildlife management strategy that would hopefully reduce attractants and help avoid a repeat of 2021, when 17 black bears were destroyed by conservation officers in Sparwood, and another 14 were destroyed in Fernie in a year when bear mortality peaked.

Sparwood was also where a vigilante took it upon himself to shoot a habituated female bear with a small-caliber rifle, seriously injuring her and making her a danger to the community. Conservation officers shot her and her two cubs because her injury made her more desperate to find food sources.

First, the district plans to create its own attractive tree removal program, where the district would help residents with unwanted fruit trees to remove them and replace them with other trees that do not attract bear.

Currently, the district has just over $10,000 allocated for an “Adopt-a-Tree” program, and those funds could be directed to the removal of fruit trees.

Fruit trees are one of the main draws for bears in the area, with unpicked fruit becoming a reliable food source for bears.

In connection with the tree felling programme, it is suggested that local volunteers be used to harvest the fruits of unmanaged trees.

A third initiative suggested is a pilot program to consider common bear-resistant trash cans.

“The pilot project would see community waste collection bins installed in targeted key areas of residential density to address waste storage and overflow into wildlife corridors,” reads the staff report.

Targeted areas would include neighborhoods with high resident turnover and where residents work irregular hours (and therefore miss garbage collection windows).

The suggestion of community bins was noted as requiring work, as the placement of large bins would require the cooperation of landlords, who would also be responsible for ensuring the bins are not used to dispose of excess waste which would instead have to be brought in at the transfer station.

The fourth suggestion is the development of a new communications strategy called “Welcome to Wildlife” aimed at new residents, with the goal of educating them about the types of wildlife they might encounter in town and how to reduce the risks.

During the discussion, the majority of District Councilors indicated their support for the ideas, which will be further developed by staff for adoption at a later date.

Only Councilor Ron Saad voiced his opposition, saying he didn’t agree with all the ideas, instead implying that the district was doing nothing, adding that “I am of the opinion that if you don’t report the bear, the bear doesn’t die”.

The rest of the council were happy with each idea, with Mayor David Wilks saying it was important for locals to report bears around town so the proper authorities could watch them for any dangerous activity, or if they were in dangerous places, adding that the bears themselves were doing nothing wrong, but the mismanagement of attractants was the problem.

“If you see a bear, you have to let someone know. We hate to see bears destroyed…but we have to try to do better.

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