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REPORTING · 7th September 2011
Walter McFarlane
Edited – Late addition added

Sergeant Darryl Struthers, a local Conservation Officer, got up to address Kitimat City Council about wildlife in the community on September 6th.

“Since 2005, Conservation officer service, the community and the District of Kitimat have had a strong working relationship. I’m trying to move the community towards becoming a bear smart community,” said Struthers.

He said this project has not proceeded in the last year and he wanted to get it going again. For it, he needed the support of the District of Kitimat and the community. They have already completed a bear hazard assessment which is the first and most difficult step.

The next step is to prepare a human/wildlife conflict plan, revise the City Planning and Decision Making policies based on the risk assessment, implement an education program and develop a bear proof solid waste plan. The 6th step is to implement bear smart bylaws.

He expressed there was a bear aware coordinator through co funding from the District of Kitimat and the government. Due to the difficulties in 2007, the position did not continue. However, in 2008 and 2009, there were members of the community came together with the support of Council and the Mayor to form the Kitimat bear care committee.

“That committee was working and was instrumental in getting stuff done and we would like to see that continue,” said Struthers.

He expressed a part of being a Conservation officer is managing human wildlife conflict and ensure public safety as well as educate the public. Last year, they visited schools, they canvassed neighbourhoods after hours. They are trying but they need to work with the community to achieve success.

Struthers expressed there were no bear smart communities in the North; they are all in the lower mainland. As Kitimat is located in a river valley, it would be prestigious to attain this status.

He went through statistics. In 2009, only four bears were destroyed. Prior, in 2005, there were 25 bears destroyed. Monaghan wanted to know how many bears were killed in 2010. Struthers replied it was a bad year and there were 3 black bears and 7 grizzlies.

Councillor Randy Halyk wanted to know if there was an opportunity for Council to get the rest of the Bear Smart program done. He also wanted to know how long it was going to take.

Struthers replied it would depend on how aggressive Council was in achieving the goals. Most of it had to be done through the municipality and City Planners would be best to explain it too them.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan said she chaired the Bear Care Committee and it fell apart because she was charged with having a squirrel feeder in her backyard. She added, in her defense, there were many other squirrel feeders in the community.

Halyk expressed he was interested in bringing the committee together again. Monaghan replied there were bylaws established. Struthers added they have found bylaws to be ineffective as they could not be enforced after hours or at night.

Councillor Corinne Scott agreed with Halyk and the need to reinstate the Bear Care committee in the community. She also wanted an update on 2011 and the Wolverine.

“This time of year is when human wildlife conflicts increase in communities. We’ve got bears coming in trying to get as many calories as they can for hibernation. It also coincides with salmon arriving in the rivers; natural berries ripening up, non natural berries ripening in people’s yards. We are heading into the time where it gets busy and there could be lots of conflict. We are just on the cusp of it,” said Struthers.

Scott wanted to know if there were more wolverines.

“There are, there are wolverines living on the outskirts of town,” said Struthers.

“No, they are in town,” said Monaghan and Halyk at the same time.

Struthers explained Kitimat was surrounded by nature and was a wilderness setting. The community lay out celebrates the wildlife in the community. It results in wildlife coming and living in the community. People tolerate wildlife living in the community. The job of the conservation officers is to do something when the wildlife poses a risk to public safety.

“We do not believe that the wolverine proposed a risk to public safety and they will remain in the community. The initial wolverine, that we had trapped and removed, we had received a complaint that a wolverine had acted aggressively and had threatened a person, had tried to attack that person so initially a trap was set and efforts were made. After we interviewed the people involved, we found out there was no attack. There was no aggressive and threatening behaviour towards the person and that is why the trap has not been reset and there is no plans unless the situation changes,” said Struthers.

Scott wanted to know how many conservation officers looked after the District. The response was four, all stationed out of Terrace covering 4000 square Kilometres. Monaghan wanted to know if any of the officers took holidays during this time. Struthers explained a lot of their time is spent reacting to the complaints they receive.

Monaghan asked how many Conservation Officers were working during the summer when it was busy. She suggested three as a number. Struthers said there were usually only two working during this time.

Scott wanted to know if they used traps to catch the bears and if they have harmed people. Struthers replied they do not respond unless they determined there is a threat to public safety. If a bear is caught in a trap, it is destroyed. They do not respond to nuisance complaints. The bear has to have lost its fear of humans or acted aggressively.

He added there are requirements for relocation, a threatened population or suitable habitat. There is a large population of black bears in the province and their habitat is utilized. Moving a black bear puts it into another bears habitat and one of them will be displaced, killed or will starve to death.

Scott asked if the rest of the province was short staffed. Struthers replied he could not answer the question. Monaghan wanted to know why they were short staffed in the busiest season. He said they were busy 12 months a year with no slow downs.

He reminded Council they also have several other duties to perform as conservation officers, such as protecting the environment. There were no other questions from Council for Struthers. He presented them with copies of the Bear Smart Program.

Monaghan then made a motion as she stepped down from the chair, passing it to Scott. Her motion was for a letter to be sent to the Ministry of Environment for additional conservation officers located in the Northwest, focusing on Kitimat in the summer months.

She said it was vital given the huge area and they are spread thin. “We as Council have lobbied the Minister before and I think its time we lobbied them again that we do need another officer in this part of the Country,” said Monaghan.

Halyk suggested removing the reference to the summer months. Monaghan agreed and explained the reason it was there was because the officers take vacations in the summer and they have less. Councillor Gerd Gottschling agreed as Struthers had suggested he would welcome more staff.

The motion was amended, called and carried. Councillor Rob Goffinet also gave notice of motion for Kitimat to complete the Bear Smart Program.
Scott and Halyk agreed the Bear Comittee was a good idea.
Scott and Halyk agreed the Bear Comittee was a good idea.
Comment by I thought on 7th September 2011
I thought all individuals had to identify themselves with their name and number. Why is this not being di=one? puzzled
economic developement versus wolverines
Comment by BUT WAIT on 7th September 2011
I personally would like to apologize to Sergeant Struthers.

What I saw and heard last night was absolutely disgusting.

BUT WAIT was it a set up??? Was the audience stacked? Things that make you go hmmmm. The attack on Sergeant Struthers should have been stopped, it was not a question and answer period, it was an attack.

BUT WAIT "it's political" our Mayor no longer heads the Bear Aware committee because she feels she was wrongfully charged with having a squirrel feeder in her yard.

BUT WAIT "there are many other squirrel feeders in the community" two wrongs don't make it right

BUT WAIT Sheila Eynons gets up and defends the Mayor "the charges are a political plot".
I think it would be embarassing to both, our law enforcement officers to have to lay charges against the Mayor and the Mayor who should be fully aware of the rules and should comply.

BUT WAIT are our politicians so note worthy that there should be plots against them.

BUT WAIT How many people do you know would stay in a job where you can not take holidays in the summer? I found it very offensive that the Mayor would ask the Sergeant if you are that short staffed why do you allow people to go on vacation, another attack.

BUT WAIT she then sends a letter requesting more Conservation Officers.

BUT WAIT here's a thought let's put an animal proof fence all around Kitimat, then the creatures can't get into your civilized spaces.

BUT WAIT what about the owls and eagles.

BUT WAIT we'll put up netting or use propane cannons like the berry farmers.

BUT WAIT what about the song birds? too bad.

BUT WAIT will my taxes go up? Of course, but let's just tack it onto our five star kitty/doggy hotel no one will complain.

BUT WAIT could the wolverine be here because of the feral cat population. hmmmm.

BUT WAIT don't uthinize any of these cats or the hundreds in the hotel. We need a by-law: all animals should be chipped and spayed/neutered, also set a limit as to numbers of animals per household.

BUT WAIT how many cats does the Mayor have?

BUT WAIT in case you think I don't like animals, I have always had pets.

We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, surrounded by wildlife, enjoy, experience and embrace your surroundings.

BUT WAIT if we do not spend more time on economic development none of this flora or fauna will matter. If we don't get more industry or companies willing to build here, stop scaring people away because of our dangerous animals, Kitimat won't only be the laughing stock of Canada, Kitimat will be a ghost town pumping out nothing but power, oil and gas. We need to start small, baby steps.

BUT WAIT tourism aren't there communities that have bear watching as a tourist attraction, hmmmm more jobs.

BUT WAIT if we have more jobs maybe our children will go off to university but come back to work, instead of the retirees following their children out of town.