Jeremiah Pauw (pictured) keeps the bins at his business locked to keep bears out, but has to unlock them for collection day. A new bin he ordered allowed the bin to remain locked all the time. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Jeremiah Pauw (pictured) keeps the bins at his business locked to keep bears out, but has to unlock them for collection day. A new bin he ordered allowed the bin to remain locked all the time. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Push for businesses to lock up garbage in the Elk Valley

WildSafeBC is signing up businesses to secure their garbage and help keep wildlife safe

Elk Valley businesses are being encouraged to sign on to WildSafeBC’s business pledge, with one business already signed on and certified.

The pledge is part of a wider provincial program, where businesses promise to secure their garbage with bear-resistant bins, reduce attractants, educate their staff about safety and do their part to make their communities less attractive for wildlife.

“Quite often businesses have some of the strongest-smelling attractants,” said Elk Valley WildSafeBC Coordinator, Andrea Fletcher.

Fletcher, who began as coordinator within the last month, has been approaching businesses to get them to sign up and do their part – and has a bite already, with Jeremiah Pauw of the Fernie Fox Hotel putting his money where his mouth is, buying a $7,200 bear-resistant bin for his business.

The Fernie Fox backs on to green space, making it a prime target for bears nibbling around the edge of town.

Pauw said that he wanted to do more to ensure fewer bears lost their lives wandering into town for an easy feed, but found the responses from waste collection and local government lacking.

“I called the waste disposal company (and) they wont provide me with a bin that’s bear proof, citing supply chain issues and cost. They told me I can’t even put a lock on my bin all the time (due to collection issues).

“The only solution is a bear-proof bin,” he said, adding it was in-line with his hotel’s environmentalism already. Currently, the bin at his business is kept locked by a chain, and unlocked of delivery day.

In 2021, 31 conditioned bears were killed in the Elk Valley, with 14 killed around Fernie.

Pauw, who grew up in the Banff area said that Fernie would be better suited by a similar waste disposal program as adopted there in years since.

“When I was growing up as a child there was a huge bear problem in Banff – way bigger than here. Being a National Park, Banff changed (the collection bylaws) and put big steel bins at the end of each alley. Every block had a recycling bin, a paper bin, a garbage bin, compost – they were all there. And it solved the problem … the bear problem is non-existent in Banff.”

Pauw has invested $7,200 in a new bin, which he ordered from the Lower Mainland, and can be emptied by the current waste collection company with no changes to process. Bear-proof steel bins used the same latches you see on bins in National Parks, and installed along 2nd Ave in Fernie.

Pauw’s is the first business to sign on to the WildSafeBC program, which certifies businesses as wild safe, allowing them accreditation and bragging rights – but they’ll still be inspected every now and then to make sure they’re staying true to their promise.

Fletcher said she was in more discussions with other businesses, and the Fernie Fox was a good start.

“If businesses can lead by example, that will go a long way,” she said, adding that it wasn’t just a pledge for businesses that back on to green spaces.

“There’s bears walking through town all the time. Being downtown doesn’t make you invisible to bears.”

Pauw said that buying a bear-resistant bin was part of proving that he and his business could follow through with good intentions.

“I have to do something to keep that promise.”

READ MORE: A tough year for bears in the Elk Valley: Dozens euthanized, more killed in collisions



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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