Shaunna McInnis of East Kootenay Wildlife Aware visited Kimberley City Council this week, bringing along information about her program and advising Council that she would be approaching them for funding at a later date.
She explained that the Wildlife Aware program evolved from Bear Aware as urban wildlife problems changed.
“Bear Aware grew in the late 1990’s when Kimberley was in a bear crisis mode similar to what we now face with deer,” she said. “And while bear and deer are still the most visible in most towns, there are skunks in Cranbrook, raccoons in Kimberley. And there are cougars — there have been lots of sightings lately.”
It is because there are so many different types of wildlife in many municipalities at present that Bear Aware had to broaden its approach, she said. And she is hoping to find enough funding to operate a longer season.
“Starting in late May and finishing in autumn does meet the needs,” McInnis said. “There are still bears active now.
“Ideally the program would run year round with long term financial commitment from several communities.”
The major problem is still attractant, garbage being the major one. McInnis believes that the availability of a steady food source (garbage) may be what’s preventing bears from hibernating earlier.
“If they have a steady food source, they won’t go to sleep,” she said. “They are finding cases of bears not going to sleep at all in Whistler.”
Another surprise attractant in Kimberley, especially for cougars, is chickens.
“There are lots of chickens in town. They are not allowed but they are there. Chickens are huge as far as attractant go. There are also bees.”
But the biggest issue is garbage.
“Garbage is such a huge attractant. The problem with garbage is getting worse with deer and even raccoons.”
McInnis believes that the problem could be solved by bear proof bins like Canmore provides. these bear proof dumpsters are placed throughout the City and residents take their garbage to them rather than set it out for curbside collection.
“In the 13 years that Canmore has had communal bins, they haven’t had a single incident. Kimberley’s trucks are equipped to use these bins,” she said.