WildSafe BC is reminding residents to keep their garbage indoors and inaccessible to wildlife as the City of Fernie moves to an automated curbside waste and recycling collection system this week.
Residents who leave their garbage cans outdoors between collection days face a $50 fine under local bylaws.
They could also be slapped with an even bigger fine, starting from $175, for making garbage accessible to dangerous animals, which is prohibited under the BC Wildlife Act.
The new automated service replaces the manual collection service and commenced on Monday, June 4, with waste to be collected on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and recycling to be picked up on alternating Thursdays.
Each home has been provided with a 120-litre wildlife-resistant cart with a locking lid for garbage and a 240-litre cart for recycling, which should be placed on the street for collection no earlier than 5 a.m. on collection day.
The new carts are wildlife-resistant but could still be pried open by bears, according to WildSafe BC Fernie and Elk Valley coordinator, Kathy Murray.
“The big benefit of this (new garbage) can is it’s going to keep the neighbour’s dog out, the crows, the ravens, the skunks, even coyotes, but bears will possibly eventually learn how to break into these,” she said.
“In a perfect world, a bear resistant one would be a similar design and a similar size, with this gravity lock but metal reinforcement on the inside so that the bear can’t pry this open.
“But this certainly is a huge step forward in what we had and the big advantage with this as well is garbage is sitting on the curb on the day of collection, it is somewhat secured.”
Murray said that it was important that people complied with local and provincial laws by keeping both their garbage and recycling cans indoors.
“The bylaws in Fernie state that garbage must be kept indoors between collection days, that doesn’t mean under my deck, underneath my stairs or just here in the carport, that means away from wildlife, that means bring it indoors into your garage,” said Murray.
“People need to realize if you have garbage out by your front, you’re are literally baiting the bear onto your property and jeopardizing your safety and the safety of your entire neighbourhood, that’s why we all need to work together… to keep the garbage and recycling indoors.”
Last year, eight bears, including two black bear cubs, were destroyed by residents or the B.C. Conservation Officer Service in the Elk Valley and South Country due to the threat they posed to human safety.
If you see a bear accessing garbage, contact the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-925-7277 and bring the garbage cans indoors when it is safe to do so.
But Murray warned the bear would be back.
“That bear has learned that there is an easy food source here, he is going to come back,” she said.
“If you have absolutely have to keep this garbage can outside, for whatever reason, you can take the attractants, the garbage, to the communal bear-resistant bins that are located at City Hall, at the arena, at Max Turyk, and at the aquatic centre, and they’re available 24/7.”
For more information on the new waste collection system, visit the City of Fernie website, Fernie.ca.