The City of Fernie has recently upgraded all of its facilities dumpsters to be more bear resistant. Establishments including the arena, aquatic centre and public works yard have received upgraded dumpsters, featuring a latching system that uses gravity to secure itself.
Wildsafe Coordinator for Fernie and the Elk Valley, Kathy Murray stated to The Free Press that 67 per cent of human-bear calls that conservation officers respond to are because a bear has been attracted by garbage.
“So far this year we have been good with bear sightings,” she said. “The berry crop is really good, but lets not kid ourselves. Once the berries dry up, the bears will be coming into town.”
Murray hopes that as the public sees the City implementing strategies to reduce human-wildlife conflict, people will be more likely to follow suit. She has been a proponent for bear-resistant dumpsters for some time, and while she acknowledges the work the City has done thus far, she hopes that Fernie will offer public garbage dumpsters in the near future.
“I was really pushing for an extra four dumpsters that would be available to the public. Currently the new bear resistant dumpsters are for city-use only,” she said. “That way we would have something for second home owners, people without garages, people who are leaving town for a vacation or visitors. It is an option for safe garbage disposal 24/7.”
New building developments that are on the perimeter of Fernie like Parastone in the Montane area have also heard from Murray. She believes that if developers can introduce communal bear-resistant bins from the start it will go a long way to avoiding human-wildlife conflict after the neighbourhoods become established.
“I have encouraged them to go toward communal bear resistant dumpsters because it is an ideal opportunity for them to really set a president and show how this would work,” she said. “Montane, for example, is in prime wildlife habitat, most of the people that are buying property there are second home owners, they leave on a Sunday afternoon and the garbage will sit there for four days. If they have a communal bear resistant dumpster that will help.”
The dumpsters, which are currently in use by many businesses and communities, can be made bear resistant with extra effort. Murray believes that the newly added bear-resistant bins reduce the chance of human error.
“It is a latching system; the bears have not figured out how to open the latch. There are no gaps in the [new dumpsters], the regular dumpsters that are all over downtown can be bear resistant through the chain and carabineer which should be kept closed at all times. The advantage of these bear resistant dumpsters is that the latch is kept closed by gravity. It is closed 24/7 and therefore inaccessible to wildlife 24/7,” she said. “Even in the Fernie bylaw, dumpsters should be closed during the day and then closed and secured at the end of the business day. It is only as bear resistant as the user.”
This week, Murray will be completing bear hazard audits of Fernie’s perimeter with the summer bylaw students. They will be going door to door and seeing if there are any attractants like unsecured garbage or unpicked fruit trees. It will be an educational campaign but Murray will be noting addresses for follow up, which she will submit to the bylaw officer.
“It will be between 1 and 4 p.m., on the outskirts of Ridgemont, Mount Proctor, Mount Minton, and 11th Avenue in the Annex. We do not want to single people out but I think it is important to work from the outside in,” she said. “If you were a bear and you get to the outside perimeter and there is no food you’re not likely to go farther into town. They are more likely to go back to the wilderness, on the other hand if they get to the perimeter and there is garbage and apples everywhere then they will keep working their way in like last year.”