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The bear facts on wildlife in Kamloops
For months, Sandi Mikuse has been poring through bylaws, but the Dallas resident isn’t looking for rules governing her home city.
Since a family of coyotes in the neighbourhood was killed this past summer, Mikuse and her partner, Claudette Laffey, have been on a fact-finding mission, looking for ways to keep wildlife conflicts out of Kamloops.
Now, they think it’s time for the city to take a tougher stance on residents who are bringing wildlife onto their properties with garbage, fallen fruit and other attractants.
“We’ve noticed that, if we use Dallas as an example, you have a certain number of people who are very pleased to have wildlife coming through the area,” Mikuse said.
“They want to protect it. They’re very adept at co-existing with wildlife. They keep their yards clean. They don’t have garbage out.”
On the flip side, Mikuse has seen neighbours fail to take those steps — then campaign to have animals destroyed when they begin hanging around the property.
“That’s what has bothered me, is watching this campaign to kill these animals in this area.”
After looking at bylaws in other communities, such as Whistler, and speaking to wildlife-preservation groups around the province and to Kamloops’ conservation service, Mikuse has a focus for her campaign: Get animal attractants out of Kamloops yards.
That could mean doing away with curbside garbage pickup altogether, she said.
In several B.C. communities she has studied, residents take their garbage to wildlife-proof bins at the end of the block or to compacting sites.
Others require bear-proof bins.
While noting there would likely be resistance to the move, Mikuse said other people she has talked to have said the change tends to work out in the long run.
“Every community that I have spoken to has stated that, while the initial cost to the city is higher, they save money in the end because costs related to garbage pick-up, and conservation services having to deal with wildlife animals in the city, are greatly reduced,” she said.
Under Kamloops’ current bylaws, garbage can’t be taken to the curb before 4 a.m. on the day of pickup between April and December.
However, Kamloops’ Bear Aware co-ordinator Lisa Ritcey said, there are plenty of people in the city following the letter of that bylaw, but not its spirit.
While she noticed many people putting their garbage out early, Ritcey also saw plenty of people storing cans in front of their house.
That’s legal, city bylaw manager John Ramsey confirmed.
But, both he and Ritcey pointed out it’s not all that helpful when it comes to keeping bears and other wildlife away.
“Whether it’s on the curb or six feet back, it still attracts the bear,” Ritcey said.
There are several other attractants that aren’t specifically covered by city bylaws.
Bird feeders, compost heaps and dirty barbecues can all bring bears running as well.
“I’ve seen countless footage as well as bears three houses down start sniffing the air and they’ll walk over and, sure enough, they go for the deck.” Ritcey said.
“They’re going after an empty barbecue,”
While bylaw officers can ticket residents who leave fruit lying on the ground under their trees, Ramsey said there’s not much to be done — other than talking to homeowners — about those other attractants.
Neither Ramsey nor Ritcey are sure more bylaws are the best way to deal with the wildlife issue.
“I think there’s always a cost to that,” Ramsey said.
“There’s a cost, resource-wise to the city, but there’s also how much do people want to take responsibility for their own actions and how much do they want the city involved in their lives?”
Ritcey said new bylaws can raise awareness, but people may have trouble keeping track of what is and isn’t allowed.
“It’s a matter of taxpayers’ money going towards creating that bylaw and then enforcing it, or rather just trying to educate people,” she said.
They do believe, however, more can be done to teach residents about dealing with wildlife.
While doing school presentations this year, Ritcey said many children weren’t aware pet food, compost and bird feed can attract wildlife.
“Can we do better?” Ramsay said. “I think, as a community, we can.
“But, is enforcement always the answer? Maybe not.”
Mikuse, for her part, hopes to speak with Kamloops city council and representatives from the provincial Ministry of Environment to see what changes can be made.
“It’s happening in all the communities in North America really, but I’d like to just start with looking and Kamloops and B.C.”
WHAT'S BRUIN IN KAMLOOPS:
• Bear sightings in Kamloops as of Nov. 6: 398
• Sightings in the same period in 2011: 497
• Fines and warnings given out for violating the
city’s bear bylaw: 367
• Fines given out in the same period for 2011:
• Fine for setting out garbage early: $100
• Average number of bears destroyed in
Kamloops per year: 5
• Highest number destroyed here in a single
year: 46 in 1998