Danica Roussy, Wildsafe BC (WSBC) coordinator for Kimberley and Cranbrook, submitted the year end report for the organization Kimberley City Council at the regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.
The goal of WSBC is to “reduce human-wildlife conflict in order to keep wildlife wild and communities safe.”
In both Cranbrook and Kimberley they received less reports for all animal conflicts in 2020 than they did the year before. A total of 361 reports were issued for Cranbrook over the course of the year. There were 211 deer reports, down from 200 in 2019 and 45 elk reports, down from 21.
There were 63 reports of black bears in 2020, down from 76 in 2019 and 13 reports of grizzly bears, down from 76. There were six reports issued for cougars in 2020, down from in 2019.
Kimberley had a total of 246 wildlife reports in 2020. Of these, 92 were for deer, down from 100 reports last year, and in both 2019 and 2020 there were 15 reports from elk.
There were 105 reports for black bears and 16 for grizzlies, down from 112 and 19 reports last year, respectively.
There were three reports regarding cougars in both years in Kimberley.
So what factors contributed to lower reports across the board in 2020? Roussy said part of it can be attributed to the weather.
“We had a warmer spring this year, and then it did cool off a bit, but basically it was a healthy year all year round for the natural food sources,” she explained. “The horsetail, for example, was flourishing for bears.”
Additionally, Wildsafe has been working to reduce attractants for deer with actions such as cutting down apple trees, and putting a lot of focus on garbage, particularly in Kimberley. It’s important to note that although the number of reports are down, there were still at least five bears destroyed this year, according to Roussy, who added she will provide the confirmed number once it is provided by the Conservation Service.
“We’ve been fining people with bylaw, we’re being very proactive,” Roussy told the Bulletin. “Some people got fined twice by the wildlife act this year and so that’s almost $1000 fine because on top of that they were charged by the city as well. So just kind of cracking down, so that could be another reason that reports are a bit lower.”
When there is a complaint with garbage, for instance if Roussy is out and about and sees garbage out, the first step is for her to go knock on the door, and if no one is there, she leaves a brochure, as the education piece is fundamental to the work of WSBC.
She will then go back until she is actually able to talk with them, and explain the program and the City’s bylaws.
“Most of them are really good,” Roussy said. “A couple people had just moved here this spring and they were like ‘oh my god I had no idea, our neighbours were leaving garbage out so we just thought we could too’ … and they’ve never put garbage out again.”
Other times, a complaint will be issued and Roussy will send a photo of the garbage to the bylaw officer. They will then go and put a warning up. If the warning isn’t followed, the person is again fined.
“It’s actually a lengthy process which is the process that I specifically mentioned last night at council, it needs to be addressed,” Roussy said. “You can’t just get one warning, then another warning and then two more warnings, because they’re going to keep doing it.”
After receiving a fine of $75 to $100, the person in question is given a period of time to pick up their garbage.
Oftentimes, as Roussy explains, the garbage is no longer on their property, as the bear has dragged it off to someone else’s. The bylaw states that you can not store garbage on someone else’s property, and there is a fine for $100 per day it’s left there. In one instance, garbage was left on another person’s property for 14 days.
“It’s frustrating from a Wildlife perspective because I just want to pick up that garbage, I want to make sure that there’s no attractants around, but it’s almost principle, you know? They need to pick it up. You’re the one being fined, if I pick it up for you you’re just going to keep doing it.”
After 14 days and the garbage still being there, the wildlife Conservation Officers come in. They fine the person $375. The second time it can be raised up to $500. IF it happens again, there’s no warning or education piece, it goes straight to the CO.
“They get fined again, and so that right now, 14 times 100, because $100 a day storing garbage on somebody else’s property, plus the original $100, that’s $1500, plus $375, plus another $375 and none of it’s been paid, then they go to court and they sit in front of a judge and the judge can decide up to $10,000 what the fine will be.”
Garbage is a main attractant for bears, which is why in Kimberley you are not allowed to put out your garbage until the day of pickup. As bears become habituated, conflict is more likely to occur, which can lead to their destruction by COs.
“It’s unfortunate because conservation officers and Wildsafe BC and the city, we all encourage people to call the RAPP line, the first time you see the bear, because that’s when you can actually translocate, you can move it,” Roussy said. “You can remove the issue, you can remove the conflict, bring it back into the wild, that’s where they should be, but if you don’t call and then three months later there’s a bear getting into a house, now the whole city’s upset because we’re having to shoot and destroy this bear.”
She said the last thing the COs want to do is shoot the bears, so it’s crucial to call the RAPP line as soon as possible.
Wildsafe tagged 67 garbage bins, with the areas of concern in being downtown, Townsite and the Ski Hill. There were 19 repeat offenders and a 72 per cent observed change in behaviour.
With deer, reports mainly stem from aggressive does in the spring and rutting males in the fall.
“In Cranbrook a lot of the deer reports are aggressive does, and we use the word aggressive because as many parents would know, you will be aggressive if your baby is in danger,” Roussy said. “So it’s a lot of people walking with dogs, that’s the main one. It has nothing to do with them being on leash or off leash, they can be on leash and they’re right in town and they can get stomped.”
The tricky thing, Roussy explained, is that until the fawn loses its spots, it has no scent. So the fawn could be much closer than someone realizes and the mother could charge.
Outside the city limits, calls usually have to do with sighting deer or them being struck by vehicles.
WSBC had an active year, assisting the community with several wiuldlife conflicts throughout Kimberley and Cranbrook. Their education platform consisted of door-to-door canvassing, garbage tagging, attending public events, and the delivery of the Wildsafe Ranger elementary program.
The organization, wildlife conflicts can still be reported to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 and urgent wildlife questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Their program will resume once again in spring 2021, but updates can be seen at www.wildsafebc.com and on thier Facebook page.
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