A Kimberley resident expresses her concerns and frustration regarding proper waste management and enforcement, resulting in unnecessary encounters with bears. File Photo.

Letter to the editor: Waste management and urban bears in Kimberley

October 29, 2020

I just want to start by saying we LOVE living in Kimberley and are grateful to call this place home. My husband and I bought our house on upper Bingay Street in September 2018; we are bear aware and do not keep our garbage or recycling outside. Within the first week of living here we found a pile of trash beneath our deck, clearly brought there by a bear. The bears obviously feel safe in our little space because this has become a regular activity in the spring and fall times. We wake up in the morning, do a sweep and clean up any trash that has been brought in by the bears. This fall has been the worst, this week alone we have cleaned up trash three times.

In the beginning we thought it was a one-off or something we had to learn to deal with, but as the situation escalates, so does our frustration; namely with Kimberley residents and also with the City of Kimberley administration.

We have contacted animal control and bylaw services multiple times; and Kim at bylaw is awesome. She always listens to what we have to say, takes our concerns seriously and provides options to try and make it better. However, she has been blatant about the fact that she can only do so much, and it is not enough. If we are lucky enough to find a name or address in the trash, we can send them to her to issue warnings and/or fines, but this doesn’t seem to change residents’ habits as the same problem keeps happening. It shouldn’t be a surprise to people that we have bears in this city, you see them walking around the trails and streets on a regular basis, therefore it shouldn’t be a shock that they want to eat your garbage. Residents need to keep their garbage inside until the morning of their assigned pick-up day. If you have too much garbage, take it to the dump; we are lucky enough to have free garbage drop-off and a very friendly transfer station staff.

In addition to residents stepping up and doing better, we need more leadership from the City itself on this issue. They are the entity that decided to invest in this unsafe waste management system, but we are the ones that pay for it. I understand they only purchased these bins and the truck two and half years ago but it’s obvious the system isn’t suited to this area. I would encourage City to sell their current refuse assets to a municipality that could better use them and use that money and other funding to invest in a wildlife safe waste management program. If the City is unable or unwilling, then they need to invest in enforcement of the city’s bylaws; monitoring of garbage routes to ensure residents don’t put their refuse out before pick-up day, more frequent and heftier fines issued to houses breaking these bylaws and more education to residents about the dangers and rewards of living with bears and other wildlife.

I hate being a snitch, but the lives of bears and other wildlife is more important than my icky feelings. Two bears have been destroyed in Kimberley, this summer alone! This morning we woke up to trash strewn all over our property and the alleyway and ravine next to us. When I went to clean it up a little later, our new neighbour was already on the task. I thanked him and he let me know it was his garbage; I explained that he can’t leave his garbage out the night before, only the morning of pick-up. By not following the rules he puts the bears and humans in the area in danger. He responded with the following comments, (paraphrased):

•I don’t give a sh*t about the bears.

•Why are the bears here, they should be sleeping?

•I just put my garbage out last night, how could they get to it already?

•I can’t believe people aren’t shooting them.

Needless to say, his responses scared me and I felt unsafe reporting his address to bylaw. This is a prime example of how people need to be educated, bylaws need to be enforced and common sense needs to be heeded.

Besides bylaw, I have contacted directly, multiple times, the city’s Mayor, the Senior Manager for Operations and the Manager for Solid Wastes. So far, none have responded except Bylaw Services, which, as noted above, doesn’t have the power to make any real change.

We are lucky to live next to and use the largest municipal park in the province, but let’s not forget that this space belonged to wildlife long before humans decided to dig up the land here. Living here, in the mountains, in this beautiful place comes with a responsibility. Bears and other wildlife are only following their natural instinct to find food before winter sets in, they cannot be blamed for their actions. Humans however, know better and we should take this responsibility seriously and honour the wildlife that graces this beautiful area.

If the people of Kimberley care about this issue and want to see some sort of change, I implore any and all to contact the city administration, the city councillors and bylaw. Without public discourse and encouragement, we cannot move forward and figure out a waste management system that works for all of us.

With love and hope,

Jillian Ezelle