By David F. Rooney
There is only one thing standing in the way of Revelstoke, home to the province’s very first Bear Aware program, becoming an official Bear Smart city: enough ursine-proof garbage cans for the entire community.
That sounds relatively simple. There are bear-proof trash containers on the market and they have been proven through a pilot project in Johnson Heights (To read a resident’s story about the trash-eating bear problem there and the effectiveness of the cans please click here: https://legacy.revelstokecurrent.com//2009/11/28/bear-season-the-johnson-heights-perspective). But an effort to outfit the community with them carries a stiff price tag — about $300,000.
Bear Aware Coordinator Penny Page-Brittin said she researched the cost of acquiring enough bear-proof cans for the city and received a quote three weeks ago of $164 a unit for 3,000 cans.
“There is broad support for city-wide use of the cans… but creating a bear-proof waste-management system is not an easy task,” she told Council last Tuesday. “I realize that given the current economic crunch that may not be possible.”
Page-Brittin suggested that the city phase in the bear-proof cans over four years and that users pay for at least a portion of the cost by through their garbage-removal fees. Using them everywhere in Revelstoke would greatly reduce the potential for bear-human conflicts. The American-made cans (Canadian-made cans were tested and found to be less effective than the ones made in California) would be particularly useful to people with little or no secure garbage storage space and would reduce the need for the RCMP to respond to bear complaints. Serious conflicts are always fatal for the bears. In 1994, after the City electrified the fence around the landfill, 62 bears were killed. When the berry crop failed the following year 23 were killed in the city. The numbers of bears roaming city neighbourhoods and the annual kill rate was so disturbing that local citizens and agencies killed established the Bear Aware Program (www.revelstokebearaware.org).
The program aims to identify and reduce human behaviour that attracts bears to urban areas. Before the education program was implemented, an average of 27 bears was killed in Revelstoke each year. Now that average is less than seven. The Revelstoke program was so successful that it served as a model for a province-wide initiative.Before its inception the average number of bears killed in the city was 27. Today, after the average is just seven. And this past year only two bears were shot — both of them garbage-eating animals.
Making the community’s waste-management system would finish off what the City needs to do become a Bear Smart Community and that’s where the cans come in. Of the six criteria a community must fulfill in order to gain Bear-Smart status, a bear-proof waste management system is only Revelstoke has not yet met. A number of communities have applied to the province for Bear Smart designation but none have yet received it. Revelstoke, which began BC’s Bear Aware movement, cannot even apply until it bear-proofs about its waste management system.
The cans in question are Bear Savers (go to www.bearsaver.com to learn more) and various models can hold up to 95 gallons of trash. In its pilot project the city ordered 50 of the cans for Johnston Heights, an area where bears were very active.
Obviously, cans that hold that much garbage are heavy. They must be hoisted using a lifter. Fortunately, the City garbage truck is equipped with just such a device.
So the real questions are: When can we get the cans? And are we willing to pay the price?