A message from the Mayor and Town Administration on bears in the community Print Article Font Size
bear-pic.JPGIn what should be absolutely no surprise to anyone as fall rapidly approaches, bears are now once again frequenting our community. Our annually positioned WildSafe (Bear Aware) BC Coordinator notes that there are three bears frequenting Husky Trailer Court and have been there every night and during the day for over a week. We have heard that people are still being complacent about their garbage storage in the area. Alexander Park, Golden Museum and Selkirk Hill have another three to four bears visiting daily/nightly. These bears are also wandering through to 10th St/12th Ave as well, and we have bears swimming the Columbia River, hopping the airport fence and frequenting places around 5th Ave. Bears and garbage are once again an item.
 
Social media is unsurprisingly all alight with commentary and blame. And apart from the lively condemnation from some new community experts about mountain ash trees and the Town of Golden’s grand mistake in planting a few of them within the new Trans Canada Highway landscaping, there is the typical criticism of the municipal government in a lack of action to ‘take care’ of this problem and the inadequacy of our garbage collection system from the type of bins to the frequency of collection.
 
To be sure, in following what many communities located in bear habitat have done, the Town will be moving toward eventually replacing all of our residents’ domestic green bins with a form of lockable bin that will be highly bear resistant. We are currently researching with our partner VP Waste Ltd. to get a unit that is cost effective and works. Once we get them, all new homes will be issued the new style of bin and we will target certain ‘problem’ residential areas over time. Remaining residents will be issued these models as replacements for worn out bins or in areas of high bear activity as appropriate. 
 
When the new universal collection service began a few years ago, we did not have the tax dollars to buy animal resistant containers. And with the significant cost difference we were reluctant to saddle residents with a suddenly and greatly increased utility fee to pay for them. We had hoped too that the teachings of annual Bear Aware Coordinators over the past 10 years and our new bylaw language would ensure residents would take steps to ensure bears would not have access to their garbage. It appears we still have a ways to go.
 
While it is going to be necessary to buy and distribute new model bins over three times the price of our original ones (and cost you more in your annual utility fees) in the hopes that it will help deter bear/garbage incidents, it is a sad and frustrating thing to have to do so.  Thankfully we have built up a specific capital reserve to offset some of this cost.
 
The Town of Golden has for over 10 years invested in an annual WildSafe/Bear Aware seasonal coordinator to educate ourselves as a community. We have implemented a more regimented and timed waste collection service. We have ensured that none of our own public garbage receptacles including our commercial bins are accessible to bears. We have been steadily removing fruit bearing trees from public property.  We will have a new Bylaw Enforcement Officer in place for the spring of 2017. And in the coming months we will begin replacing our green garbage bins with a more robust animal resistant model.
 
To those of you who are responsible with your garbage and yards we commend and thank you.
 
But let’s make no mistake Golden. Everyone else – as either businesses or homes - who refuses to keep their bins locked up or adequately stored, who put out their garbage bins the night before pickup, who keep commercial outdoor garbage receptacles that are bear accessible, who have and leave their fruit trees laden and waiting, who keep their barbeques well-greased and other attractants available - THEY remain our collective problem. 
 
The creation of garbage bears is not the fault of your municipal government. 
 
It is the fault of those remaining citizens who continue this behaviour.
 
Revelstoke was heralded for years as a bastion for bear aware residents. Nine bears have been killed there this fall. How quickly a town’s status can change with a poor shift in the behaviour of some residents. Moving toward a universal communal/street corner large scale bin system as seen in Banff and Canmore does work. But it takes a massive cultural shift and cost to do so. It is unlikely Golden is ready for this, nor may it necessary, when places like Port Coquitlam have proven that other measures and above all, human behaviour, is what is needed to effectively change the tide.
 
Locking garbage containers will help. Some heightened enforcement will help. But until a significant number of our own people in this community wake up and smell the bear scat, we are going to continue compelling our Conservation Officers to shoot bears in the middle of our town because of the behaviour of those who quite obviously do not care.
 
Start Caring.
 
Mayor Oszust and Town Administration