Whitehorse Daily Star

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Heather Ashthorn

Budget doesn’t further bear-resistant garbage containers: advocate

The city’s capital budget lacks a commitment to advance the use of bear-resistant garbage containers, says the executive director of WildWise Yukon.

By Chuck Tobin on December 5, 2019

The city’s capital budget lacks a commitment to advance the use of bear-resistant garbage containers, says the executive director of WildWise Yukon.

Heather Ashthorn told city council at its meeting Monday evening that the city should at least be conducting a neighbourhood pilot project to test what type of bin would be suitable for Whitehorse.

There were 130 reports of bears getting into garbage bins between 2012 and 2018, she said.

“We know there is a problem,” Ashthorn said. “We would really like to see more action on the city’s behalf to address the problem.”

She said between 40 and 45 per cent of the incidents occur in the urban subdivisions, with 55 to 60 per cent occurring in the country residential subdivisions.

“We believe a pilot project in both of these areas would really give us a lot of information about what works, and what could work and what people living in those areas have an appetite for.”

Records show that many bears are shot every year because they’ve become nuisance garbage bears.

In 2018, for instance, 54 bears had to be killed across the Yukon, of which 33 were shot be conservation officers and 21 others were shot by people in defence of life and property. In 2017, there were more than 60 bears killed.

Ashthorn noted the city currently orders about 1,000 regular bins a year to address wear and tear and the expanding population, such as with the growth in Whistle Bend.

The situation does present an opportunity to implement a pilot project, she suggested.

Ashthorn recommended the city focus on a subdivision like Copper Ridge, where there has been an issue with bears getting into garbage.

WildWise would also like to see the city look at the use of central bear-proof storage containers that could be used by residents in country residential subdivisions, she said.

Ashthorn mentioned how the Yukon’s recently released grizzly bear conservation plan says there is a need to become a bear-smart community, territorially.

It notes in order to do that, the Yukon needs to adopt a bear-proof waste management system, she said.

“To come into alignment with that conservation plan, we need to act together as non-profit organizations, as a municipal government and citizens to move forward on that very important recommendation,” she said.

Ashthorn suggested that by initiating a pilot project, the city could produce some tangible statistics about the effectiveness of bear-proof garbage bins.

WildWise has distributed a few bear-proof bins they have been supplied with.

Councillors Steve Roddick and Jan Stick, the only two councillors who live in urban subdivisions, are both using them.

Roddick explained in an interview he’s had the bin since late summer and so far so good, though he hasn’t been through the winter yet.

“It’s great,” he said. “It’s got a latch that only opens when tipped upside down, that only works when it’s tipped upside down into the truck.”

The price points between a regular curbside cart and a bear-proof cart were not available.

But Coun. Laura Cabott did note that the city, both council and administration, has put a lot of work into the question of bear-proof bins. Some of the bins are prohibitively expensive, she suggested.

Comments (14)

Up 2 Down 1

North_of_60 on Dec 11, 2019 at 6:46 pm

Bear encounters around Whitehorse increased significantly when the City mandated bear-friendly containers for residential compost. The collection interval is two weeks and in that time food scraps can get very bear-attractive in the bottom of the dark plastic food scrap compost bin when it's warm. This mandated compost container was the idea of the City's Sustainability Department. It's staffed by young inexperienced outsiders, not Yukoners, and their decision to use a southern supplier for the bear friendly containers shows they don't understand bears, or the Yukon. This is typical of the department's detached ineptitude. It's unfortunate that Yukon bears will continue to be destroyed because of their incompetence.

Stop letting kids with no experience and 'environmental' degrees from southern urban colleges and universities make decisions about Yukon bears. They clearly don't know what they're doing and the bear deaths have to stop.

Up 12 Down 1

Ford Fox Saiks on Dec 11, 2019 at 12:34 am

FFS - Leave the council chambers and chip some ice, shovel some snow, or pick up some garbage - Do Something Useful for a Change! Quit finding ways to spend the taxpayers money and find ways to save it.

I agree with Squamish - WTF has happened to the Wilderness City? Answer: It has been “infected” by imported stupidities. Hey, let’s put a dome over the city and bubble wrap everything!

Up 12 Down 1

Squamish on Dec 10, 2019 at 5:31 am

I lived in Squamish before Whitehorse. Squamish is overrun by black bears. Part of the problem is Whitehorse people calling conservation and grossly over-reacting to the presence of a bear. It was one of the first things I noticed when I moved here - I found it so odd for a "wilderness city" to overreact this way. Why call? Why not just let a no-problem bear do its thing and move on? That is what we all did in Squamish - we banged pots and pans or just let them do their thing and they simply moved on. They were de-sensitized for sure - but it seemed to make them less aggressive because they could care less about us (weren't defensive therefore) and we shared space together. I would see them walk down side walks, nest in a neighbour's backyard (and be unbothered) and one day I went outside and every single locked garbage (all garbage bins have those locks on them in Squamish) was tipped over all down the street I lived on. It was a funny sight! Locks or no locks, they will always be around, I wish we'd just chill out and let them be (except for the rare problem bear). I think the real problem is that Whitehorse people call Conversation far far too easily/often and that is when they get killed.

Up 15 Down 2

Brian on Dec 9, 2019 at 6:08 am

Not sure why this NGO gets $60,000+ a year funding when they just do what Conservation Officers service does with public Engagement.
Seems like a waste of money to hear an echo.

Up 5 Down 7

Miles Epanhauser on Dec 8, 2019 at 7:13 pm

We do need more effort to protect bears. There was a bear in Cowley Creek just a few days ago.
You can bet it will show up on properties with chickens or a dog team or lots of stores garbage.

Up 24 Down 5

Obi on Dec 7, 2019 at 7:56 am

Dear Wild Wise,
We live in a wilderness City surrounded by miles and miles of bear country. Spending thousands of tax payer dollars on Rolls Royce garbage cans, to deter bears, is a total waste of money.
Perhaps you should get KFC and all the other fast food places to move, or shut down, because the smells wafting through the air will attract bears and other critters constantly.
We also have a huge conservation, wildlife department, with many officers paid, and trained to handle any occasional bear problem. This is life in our Yukon. What’s next an electrified fence 10 ft high all around Whitehorse?
And if this is about the rights of bears over humans, then until bears pay taxes, humans are the top of the food chain!

Up 16 Down 4

Fact on Dec 6, 2019 at 12:05 pm

If bears can get into houses and garages, they can get into a garbage can--locked or not. It might deter them a bit but if they're really hungry or curious, they'll get in there.

Up 19 Down 5

Just Sayin' on Dec 6, 2019 at 11:04 am

I've been here for over 20 years, I live on a greenbelt with much bear activity and I have never seen or heard of a bear going through anyone's bins in the city limits. So let's ask Stick and Roddick, have your previous bins been rummaged through by bears?

I agree with not getting new bins, waste of money all around.

Up 9 Down 10

Wilf Carter on Dec 5, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Don't need them - just put locks on existing bins.

Up 26 Down 5

Max Mack on Dec 5, 2019 at 5:22 pm

There is no proof that "bear-resistant" garbage bins reduce human-bear interactions in residential neighbourhoods, unless you count the biased claims of manufacturers, rent-seeking municipalities, and self-serving ENGOs.

As I have pointed out in previous posts, Whitehorse is but a thimble in a literal ocean of bear habitat. There are so many bear-attracting smells coming out of Whitehorse from every imaginable source . . . Bear-resistant bins will not solve the problem of bears being attracted to all those smelly things . . .

Up 9 Down 10

Need to know the cost on Dec 5, 2019 at 5:13 pm

So we all get mad when councillors spend money that doesn’t align with our interests. Then when Laura Cabott question the legitimacy of the cost of specialized garbage containers you jump on her. So which is it, you want responsible budgeting or just looking for someone to sign a cheque for anything without question.
Coming up with $300k or more for a house is a stretch, so yes, a few more bucks does sting a little. And unfortunately it is much cheaper to shoot bears than invest in all new garbage containers. We call ourselves the “Wilderness City” but that doesn’t mean we have to have bears in our back yards. Just because bears can’t get in these containers does not guarantee they will not become problematic. Almost everyone has some sort of berry bush, compost bin, etc. Bears always have and always will be present within the city limits. Maybe Heather Ashthorn should of had costs differences included with the rest of her presentation. Also this seems more like a Territorial project that a city pilot project.

Up 24 Down 5

Sandra Amway on Dec 5, 2019 at 3:19 pm

@ Counc. Cabott - Bins are prohibitively expensive?? - so is the Amber Palace
on top of the hill !!!

Up 13 Down 13

Politico on Dec 5, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Gotta love Laura. She thinks it's cheaper to shoot bears than try to prevent killings. What was proposed was get some different models and see how they work and what the cost would be but her response the COST, the Cost, the cost ad nausium!

Up 19 Down 20

resident of wilderness city on Dec 5, 2019 at 2:39 pm

So it's a budget thing first and foremost, right? Yes, taxes are high, the City should be in charge, blablabla - I'm a taxpayer, too, but I still think that anyone who can come up with at least 300K (and we all know that's low) for a house in Wilderness City, should be able to come up with a few bucks more to buy a bear-proof garbage bin. But maybe I'm missing something here?

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