Six grizzly bears have paid the ultimate price for the negligence of Kitimat residents who failed to responsibly store their garbage.
The six bears, shot and killed in and around Kitimat since the beginning of spring this year, included a sow and cubs.
The latest casualty, a large adult male estimated to be between five and seven years old, was shot by conservation officers on Thursday, October 18, in the vicinity of Kuldo Blvd. and Omenica St.
Terrace Conservation Officer Service’s Sgt Tracy Walbauer said all six bears destroyed had become habituated and were a significant safety concern to the community.
“Kitimat has and continues to hold the unattractive title of being one of the communities in B.C. with the highest grizzly bear complaints, and the community with the highest number of grizzly bears destroyed,” said Walbauer.
He said despite increased education and enforcement by the District of Kitimat and the Conservation Officer Service, residents are still not securing their garbage properly.
“Some residents don’t want to change and become part of the solution,” said Walbauer. “Bears that are habituated to garbage are not candidates for relocation and can pose a significant public safety risk.”
“Residents – if you leave your garbage improperly secured you will be fined,” warned Walbauer. “You are creating an elevated safety risk within your community.”
He said since the grizzly was destroyed on Wednesday last week conservation officers and the District of Kitimat bylaw enforcement officer had stepped up their regular patrols, inspecting garbage storage areas, not just in the residential areas, but also outside businesses.
He said while some residents have no options to secure garbage securely, the majority of non-compliant residences had no excuse.
He said a number of households, multifamily housing units and businesses had been identified as problematic.
“Bears may explore all areas of town searching for food sources. However, areas of town that interface with natural habitats tend to be more conducive to bear interactions.”
He said following the shooting last week, several Dangerous Wildlife Protection Orders (an enforcement tool for Conservation Officers) were issued.
“In addition, a $575 fine was issued the day after the bear was destroyed,” said Walbauer. “Once contacted, offenders generally comply following warning or ticketing.”
He said the number of grizzlies destroyed in and around Kitimat to date tracks with the number of bears killed this time last year.
The Haisla Nation Council (HNC) reports that no bears have been destroyed in Kitamaat Village since the last incident in July 2017 when a sow and her three cubs were shot and killed.
Following the deaths the HNC introduced a program to secure all the garbage bins in the village with bear-proof lids, as well as a fish waste monitoring program that provides a service to residents to collect fish remains from their homes.
“Our Community Development department has worked hard to educate our members in Kitamaat Village about how to properly store garbage and fish waste,” said HNC chief councillor Crystal Smith.
“We’ve had a good year with very little wildlife conflict, so we are already seeing the difference those actions have made on community safety.”