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REPORTING · 26th August 2014
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat City Council saw a presentation from Conservation Officer Gareth Scrivner on Monday, August 18th. He wished to update Council on the Bear Aware Program and update Council on the activities going on in Bear Aware and how to reduce bear human conflict.

He explained that 4 years ago, there were a high number of bears which had to be removed from the community. Then, the Bear aware committee began their work. This in conjunction with a smaller number of black bears has reduced bear activity in the area.

Scrivner told the Council there are only three conservation officers covering a large area which stretches from Stewart to Bella Bella. They cover the area 7 days a week which means there are only two conservation officers working on any given day.

“We’ve been able to work with Bear Aware Well in the last three years and that’s been a great benefit to us in providing education to Kitimat,” said Scrivner. “Education is a large component of reducing bear problems in a community. I think the work that’s been done has played a part in reducing the problems that Kitimat’s experienced.”

He thanked all the people involved in the bear aware program.

There are some problems outside of education. Scrivner stated they are not able to deal with all the issues so they work on the worst. Two of the concerns are the commercial dumpsters around Kitimat and the residential garbage which is put out the night before.

“Lots of folks in Kitimat will store their garbage outside in a carport. That’s not been something that we’ve taken issue with in terms of telling folks that it’s not something that should be done,” said Scrivner.

He expressed there is a lack of a working relationship with the bylaw department. There are several bylaws about garbage in place. He met with the Bylaw department and found out the bylaws were not being enforced, the primary role of the Bylaw department is in building permits and inspection. Issues were reported to them but there was never any feedback on actions taken.

“I’ve been in Kitimat at 1:00, 2:00 in the morning chasing grizzlies out of dumpsters and also on streets where garbage has been put out and we’ve moved the grizzlies out of Kitimat back into the forest and they’ve been going from garbage can to garbage can in each driveway,” said Scrivner.

They scare a bear out of a dumpster and out of town and an hour later, the RCMP will let them know the bear is back in the dumpster.

Dumpsters of concern include the dumpster outside the Keg. Scrivner explained it was full of cooking oil with no locking lid in place. The lid is plastic. “There are thousands of calories there and bears are really attracted to oil, grease,” said Scrinver.

He said the dumpster attracts a substantial amount of bears every year.

Scrivner moved on to Tim Horton’s dumpster, which surrounded by garbage, ripped apart by crows. At 2 am, the dumpster is still wide open.

“We’ve had ongoing issues with some of the restaurants and hotels in Kitimat in attempting to get them to secure their dumpsters during the day, but also at night. We’ve charged several hotels and restaurants under the provincial acts available to us,” said Scrivner.

Scrivner explained that while there has been some progress, some of the progress has been undone. He asked the District of Kitimat staff to look at dealing with these problems and making sure the bylaw is being enforced to keep the public safe.

He suggested the bylaw work with the Conservation Officers and Bear Aware to deal with offenders. He also suggested funding the Conservation Officers so they can audit the residential streets and commercial dumpsters.

“The Conservation Officers are concerned about the storage and management of garbage in Kitimat. I think these issues can and should be dealt with at our local government level. We are fully supporting of trying to deal with some of those issues and we will try to reach out and work with the municipality as much as we can. I think we owe it to the folks of Kitimat who are diligent with their waste management that we deal with some of the worst offenders with this and I think that some of the numbers of wildlife that has removed in the past is high and I think it’s actually unactable that some of the garbage levels are up their given the number of bears that move through the community and I think we have the solutions to moving forward, in the District and the conservation service to reach those goals,” said Scrivner.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated it should not be too hard to enforce the District of Kitimat’s garbage bylaws. He asked what the number of relocation and bears put down they have faced. Scrivner expressed they had to remove two grizzlies. The Black bear numbers seem to be much lower over the last couple of years.

Councillor Edwin Empinado suggested having them sit down with staff about the enforcing the bylaw. There were new residents who did not know the bylaw.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked if they considered using the bear aware program to solve this problem. He expressed on the way home from Council Meetings, he sees people with their garbage out on a Monday night.

Scrivner said they are open to working with people to improve public safety. He said he has been disappointed in the repeated enforcement which had to be taken against these businesses after education failed.