Bear season: the Johnson Heights perspective

Editor’s Note:

Johnson Heights was the area selected by City Council a couple of years ago for the City’s pilot study of bear-proof trash cans. It was, for residents, and interesting experience as their neighbourhood has long been regarded as “bear central.” This article, written by resident Miranda Murphy, appeared in the neighbourhood newsletter this autumn. I thought it would give other Revelstokians a unique perspective on the utility of the Bear Saver garbage cans.

It’s Bear Season!

Miranda Murphy
Miranda Murphy

Here in Johnson Heights, when October rolls around, we begin to see the faces of some of our most nosy neighbours come out of hiding.  In the late summer of last year, we became the proud owners of a cozy new home on our wonderful lot beside the woods.  Having grown up in a wooded area, I understood that bears are present, however I was not prepared for their intrusive effects on the neighbourhood.  Throughout September and October, almost every day we would hear of another bear eating another residents’ garbage, or at least poking around the place with a couple young cubs in tow.  There were a few nerve racking occasions when we had to sneakily grab our young, black puppy from the lawn when a bear was nearby, all the while hoping the bear didn’t think we were abducting one of her cubs!

After diligently storing our garbage in our newly built and newly stinky shed, we were relieved to hear about the current study being conducted by Revelstoke Bear Aware which provided us with these great, bear-proof garbage cans.  They are actually bear-proof.  We found this out in May of this year.  Our first garbage can was stolen within the first week of the project last fall.  After a few thorough searches of the nearby woods, we decided it was a lost cause, until this May, when we spotted the can leaning against the bank at the back of the house!  It was covered in bear scratches, tightly sealed, and smelling exactly as six month old garbage should, which was most likely why the bears decided to return it.

Bears are a beautiful and amazing creature and our forests wouldn’t be the same without them.  Bears are also very quick learners, and can easily become a nuisance to people.  If bears find food at your house, they will come back and check for more.  It is at this point where they become a problem and threat to humans and themselves.  Although they are not inherently vicious, they are very easily scared and threatened, especially when they are caring for cubs.  It is very unfortunate when nuisance bears must be destroyed as a result of the ignorance of humans.

Programs such as Bear Aware are key to promoting bear safety, awareness and helping us to reduce the numbers of bears we encounter.  We are very fortunate to be part of a study involving these innovative new garbage cans, but the cans and the study will not serve their purpose unless we all do our part to help.  Revelstoke Bear Aware asked us to keep all of our garbage securely stowed out of reach of bears.  If we succeed in doing this, the bears will not find any food in Johnson Heights, and therefore, Bear Aware should receive less reports of bears visiting our homes.  However, as soon as we leave out one bit of food garbage, the bears will find it and will learn to come back.  It is not a huge responsibility, but it is an important one, to help out Bear Aware, our community and the bears.

With our cooperation and fancy new garbage cans, we should be able to reduce the number of bears visiting our houses and keep our neighbourhood a safe playground.

If you have trouble getting all your garbage in one can:

  • Do a double duty for the environment and try recycling!  The bottle depot is a great way to motivate yourself – whoever sorts and takes the recycling gets to keep the money made! (This works best with roommates who drink a lot of beer or kids that drink a lot of juice)  The only rule is when you go to the bottle depot, you also must take the rest of the recycling to the public works yard even though there is no money in it.
  • Try cutting down on food waste, which will also save your grocery bill.  Only cook what you can eat and don’t buy what you don’t need.
  • Remember the large, locked dumpster is on your way out.
  • Sneak over to your neighbours house at night and put your garbage in their can! (Just kidding!)

Miranda Murphy is a resident of Johnson Heights and a contributor to the neighbourhood’s newsletter, where this article originally appeared this autumn