Letters to the Editor – June 15

Highway 3 safety and man’s relationship with the wild

Man’s relationship with the wild

It is with deep regret that I feel I must write this letter. My son-in-law recently bought the old Anderson Ranch, in Cokato, near Fernie. Shortly after he purchased the property we met an old timer who has lived in Cokato since just after the last ice age. Although he is old, he is still a spry old devil and has the eyes of an eagle. Nothing goes on in Cokato that he doesn’t see. Because of this we made him caretaker and manager of my son-in-law’s ranch. His expertise in living in Cokato is second to none. He gets a $1000 bonus for every confirmed kill he makes on illegal trespassers, who frequent the property.

Around the first of May he phoned and told us to be careful on the ranch, as there was a big grizzly eating grass in the field. As soon as we started farming the fields we were paid a visit by our furry friend. He liked to eat the roots of the grass as I went around the field ploughing it up. He loved to dig in the freshly turned earth and pull out the big grubs and worms exposed from their underground layers. He also made a big game of chasing down the gophers that go displaced from their burrows. He soon lost his fear of the tractor and he would only move over 50 feet to let the tractor go by and then he would return to eating his roots and grubs.

I often stopped and talked to him, although he never answered back, we soon became good friends as he and I have the same nature and are not well liked around the community. We both shared the same view on a lot of things, especially the modern world and the young people who now live in it. Because of this we became kindred spirits and, I must say, I looked forward to our visits.

One day, when I started ploughing, he came into the field from the rich people’s side of the railway tracks. I stopped and told him not to go over there, as guys like us are not welcome in those kinds of neighbourhoods, and he might just get shot. By now I could understand grizzly pretty well and he promised me he would be careful. He said he was tired of eating lettuce sandwiches and mangy gophers and that some of these people decided to place decadent pork chops and rack of lamb right on his back porch. His desire for pulled pork caused him to cross again that night. He killed three pigs and got himself shot. I must say that no death of an animal has touched me more than this one. I miss my friend.

My question to the man who shot the bear is, “if you can afford the half million dollars plus to buy property in Cokato and put a million dollar house on the property, why do you need to buy pigs and goats to eat?” It seems to me you could eat steak bought at World famous Brown’s Butcher Shop. Also, if greenhorns insist on moving out into the country, why not talk to the old people who have lived side by side with these animals their whole lives and learned to live in relative harmony with wildlife of all kinds. (Ever hear of an electric fence?)

If you have just moved to Cokato there is an old Scotchman who lives on the hill and overlooks the valley. He has raised sheep on his property for the last half century and the thought of losing just one sheep sends shivers up his spine. He understands that not every predator that enters the valley needs to die. He is your man if you want to know how to live in Cokato.

In the old days people who lived in the country built a big barn and every night they would lock their animals in the barn, when they went out to mild the cow. Many also would have a big guard dog, only slightly smaller than a timberwolf with the temperament of a pit-bull and it was his job to patrol the property day and night, protecting against predators of all kinds and if he got a hold of a two legged type you would know as he would have to walk on a stump of a leg for the rest of his life.

In closing I must say these modern people are a pain in the ass. Too much wildlife is being killed just because they come near towns that are built in the habitat, on their trails, around their meadows, along their streams. The practice of killing animals for threat of Fido or petunias must stop.

My life in the mountains has taught me to love and respect these creatures and the backcountry, but to insist that any animal, predator or herbivore, within city limits must die is completely hypocritical. If you would like to learn more about grizzly bears and their behaviours, read my book, A Promise that Bears Honour.

Dennis Dilts,

Jaffray, B.C.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety in West Fernie on Highway 3

The current lack of safe pedestrian and non motorized vehicle access to and from Fernie along Highway 3 between the West Fernie Bridge and Silver Rock Condos poses significant hazards and risks to the residents of our community that have a very real possibility of a tragic outcome.

The Highway 3 single lane corridor runs directly through a residential neighbourhood with a posted speed limit of 60km/hr. The current situation has pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the road and shoulder with all forms of private and commercial transportation. Based on observation during the summer months the volume of both motorized and non motorized traffic increases considerably with travellers, visitors and commercial traffic. Highway 3 through West Fernie is the main pedestrian access to parks, schools and businesses for residents of West Fernie and provides access to a large portion of the area’s bike trails including Fernie Provincial Park and Burma Road.

The hazardous situation is compounded by several factors including lack of visible traffic and shoulder lanes, inconsistent signage, lack of traffic law enforcement including speed limits and illegal passing on the shoulder, gravel and rock covered shoulders, no turning lanes and the removal of the pedestrian crossing. This summer there is further confusion and limited access based on large infrastructure projects happening on each side of the highway that require daily and changing road closures to the residential neighbourhood.

At this time there appears to be several longer term planning and feasibility studies being commenced including revisions to the Official Community Plan based on the incorporation of West Fernie into Fernie and a possible intersection study by the Ministry of Transportation which may address some of these hazards and concerns in the long term. It is important that members of the community identify their concerns to this committee and to the Ministry. In the short term (i.e. this summer) I would like certain safety measures to be taken immediately including increased signage, road markings and traffic enforcement so that I might be able to walk into town with my child without being run down by dueling 18 wheelers and RV’s on unmarked roads with gravel flying around us at 80km/hr.

Jill Barclay

Fernie, B.C.