A group of local residents has decided to make a more active way of collecting apples this fall with aims to reduce the incentive for bears to come to town. The Elk Valley Homesteading Group is spearheading the initiative in hopes to not have a repetition of last year’s bear destruction.
Conservation officers euthanized 20 bears in Fernie last fall and another 12 throughout the Elk Valley.
“Last year was absolutely tragic. While it may not have been the worst year on record it is so avoidable. The biggest issue is apples and people not picking them,” said Rachel Dortman, a coordinator of the new plan. “What the Elk Valley Homesteading Group is doing is organizing an apple pick program. There are a bunch of passive programs where people have to go and sign up and say I have apples at this address and you can come pick them and then they have to make arrangements with people to come to your yard and come pick your apples.”
Dortman is looking to shift away from the passive program because many people do not have access to sign up. The new program will be modelled after an existing, productive apple collection system that the Crowsnest Pass has implemented.
“What we have in the Valley is a lot of seniors. A lot of people are not on the Internet or they just don’t want people coming at different times to pick their apples. What we want to do is run a similar program to what they do in Crowsnest Pass,” said Dortman. “Where we have a group of volunteers we will subdivide Fernie into different areas like the Annex [and] Airport, and get hopefully enough volunteers to go around and pick people’s apples.”
The organization will spend the apple-growing season informing homeowners that have apple trees and then in the fall they will collect them.
“In the first half of the summer we will knock door to door on people’s homes who have apple trees here in the valley, and give them a pamphlet stating who we are, what we do and the contacts,” she said. “We will schedule you for three days in the fall, and go to the people who signed up for that day and pick all of their apples, good and bad, and get them off of people’s properties.”
While bad apples will be taken to the dump, the good apples will be available to the homeowners, volunteers and public.
“We will give the owner whatever apples they would like to keep. We will give the rest of the volunteers a pick of whatever apples they want from the apples that are left over,” she said.
The apples will then be offered to the public for a small donation. “Then the rest we plan to give to ranchers in the area to feed their livestock, pigs, goats, some for cows, and stuff like that.”
According to Dortman, the organization needs more volunteers.
“If people are interested in volunteering for the committee to get this organized, we need about six more people to help organize it with handing out pamphlets, organizing volunteers, and figuring out dates, then they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org,” she said.” If people want to just volunteer to come out for one or two weekends in the fall to pick then they can contact Madi at email@example.com and get on that volunteer list.