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Stop bear deaths, Nelson residents urge council

Four Nelson residents are urging the city to address growing concerns involving waste management and local wildlife. 

Kimberely Hyatt was one of the people who addressed city council this week, asking them to implement a resolution to deal with the senseless death of bears in the area. 

“Friday afternoon I exited my uphill driveway to hear three loud bangs, in short succession,” says Hyatt. “I knew right away that a conservation officer had shot an innocent bear that was roaming our neighborhood for the past few weeks.”

Hyatt says  the root of the issue, and that is the amount of garbage and frequency with which it is collected. 

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“Nelson needs to implement bear proof collection and look to other more progressive communities, like Banff,” she says. “They have eliminated garbage conflict by installing bear proof garbage and recycling stations throughout the town.”

Garbage collection in the city has developed into a hot topic during the election campaign. It is rotated on a bi-weekly basis and this has left some in the community concerned about infestation.

“The city isn’t getting people to safely store their garbage,” says Hyatt. “This has attracted many animals like skunks, raccoons and bears. It has also attracted rats, which the city doesn’t want.

“We are attracting the animals in,” she states. “This is the city’s fault for not following up on their mandates.”

The group put a petition online to gather signatures to protect not just the bears, but wildlife in general.

“The petition started after the mother bear and cubs were shot,” says Anita Johnson, another person who attended council to advocate for urban wildlife. “It was upsetting for me, and I knew at that point I had to try and do something.”

The petition currently has over 21,000 signatures, not just from the city but from neighboring communities around the area. 

“We need to change these habits,” says Johnson. “The time has come for this to stop.”

City manager Kevin Cormack  admitted  the current program might not be strong enough and  improvements will have to be considered. 

“No one in our community wants to see bears destroyed,” says Cormack. “It is clear that our system might not be robust enough, especially with a year like this.”

Cormack says the current system was developed with consultation from WildSafe BC, and they will address any enhancements with them.

“We have worked with WildSafe BC to reduce these attractants in order to make the city more bear smart,” says Cormack. “Unfortunately our coordinator has changed a couple of times. When our coordinator was here we had a lot more momentum.”

Cormack says the city is looking into changing the waste receptacles, and next year will start a curbside organics collection program to make the city more bear smart.

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