Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

WHAT HAVE WE HERE? – This black bear checks out a dumpster at the Pepsi Softball Centre off Range Road on the afternoon of May 2. It was eventually shooed away from the area. Inset Heather Ashthorn

Stiffer bylaw advocated to cope with bears

A stronger city bylaw could help in the effort to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in Whitehorse, particularly with bears, city council heard at its meeting Monday.

By Chuck Tobin on May 17, 2019

A stronger city bylaw could help in the effort to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in Whitehorse, particularly with bears, city council heard at its meeting Monday.

Heather Ashthorn of WildWise Yukon suggested a bylaw prohibiting residents from putting out their garbage and compost containers at the curbside the night before collection day would help.

Coun. Jan Stick told Ashthorn she sees a problem with people putting their containers out at night.

“Any suggestions?” she asked the executive director of WildWise.

“Yep: change the bylaw,” Ashthorn quickly replied.

She noted the municipality of Squamish, B.C. has made it an offence to put the containers out before the morning of collection day.

It’s working quite well now, she said.

Ashthorn said it’s at the point now where peer pressure from neighbours is kicking in, so that if bylaw enforcement doesn’t get you, your neighbours will.

Coun. Laura Cabott told her council colleagues the city does have a bylaw on the books making residents responsible for ensuring proper management of their waste.

The city is testing four types of latched containers to see how they work in the different weather conditions, Geoff Quinsey, the city’s manager of water and waste service, explained in his presentation to council on Monday.

He said they also have their eye on a latched container currently under development that is suitable for the climate.

Containers have to be user-friendly to achieve the best results, he told council.

It’s largely accepted that bears are most active at night. Putting out receptacles at night invites problems, it’s widely accepted.

The city has developed a two-page brochure it intends to circulate through the mail with its utility bills. The brochure was presented to council Monday.

It indicates most of the bear incidents in the city are related to bears being attracted to garbage. Many other attractants like bird feeders, barbecues that haven’t been cleaned, freezers and such are also a problem.

Quinsey explained in an interview they’re hoping to have a handful of the containers under development in Whitehorse for testing beginning next summer.

If they work as hoped, the testing will continue into the summer of 2021, he said.

If all goes well, Quinsey said, they want to be in a position by August 2021 to prepare a budget submission for council’s consideration for a much larger pilot program involving containers for between 50 and 100 homes.

They are also exploring options for managing waste in country residential subdivisions and other areas outside the city’s collection area, he told council.

The brochure to be circulated recommends keeping garbage and compost containers in the garage or shed until the morning of collection, or build a modest bear-resistant enclosure. Plans are available online, and the brochure provides the web address.

At the very least, the brochure suggests, bins should be out of sight from the roadway. Otherwise, bears walking through the neighbourhood at night will spot them.

“Bears learn quickly and will look for familiar sources of food,” it says. “Your driveway, curbside and front porch are all visible. Choose a spot out of sight of a bear who is cruising down the street or greenbelt.”

Numbers provided by Environment Yukon last December show that 54 bears had to be killed across the Yukon last year. Of that number, 33 were killed by conservation officers and 21 by others acting in defence of life and property.

Another 58 had to be relocated, two thirds of which were moved out of Whitehorse.

Poor management of attractants was the leading cause of the conflicts, Environment Yukon indicated, just as it does every year.

In 2017, 65 bears were killed, surpassing the previous high of 61 in 2012.

The 23 shot in 2016 was the lowest in nine years.

Comments (17)

Up 10 Down 0

Brian on May 23, 2019 at 5:31 am

@Max Mack
You are absolutely correct in your statements. WildWise is doing what the Yukon Fish and Game should be doing under their mandate. So why 2 NGO’s?
Because someone saw and opportunity for funding and applied.
That’s all, we have many NGO’s in Yukon that do similar activities. Instead of having those associations bring another board member on or hire a student, a new organization gets formed and more of the pie gets diced up.
Leaving older organizations who’s contribution agreements have not been adjusted for inflation or current cost of deliverable increases panhandling for money from the Minister of their sector.

Up 20 Down 4

Wilf on May 21, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Bears are part of our life style and live with them as part of our society. If you live where the bears are just take steps to not attract the bears. Common sense all this talk about nothing is giving me and other residents a headache that is meaningless. Some people just like to make meaningless noise.

Up 28 Down 4

yukoner on May 21, 2019 at 11:44 am

Until bears pay taxes like me, I will live with bird feeders, mayday trees, raspberry bushes at my home.

When the city of Whitehorse, cuts down the large Mayday tree at city hall and all the ones at Rotary park, don't tell me I have to remove mine.
200 plus employees at conservation headquarters should be able to handle the occasional bear problem.

Up 20 Down 1

max mack on May 21, 2019 at 10:44 am

I can't express my opinion about Wildwise Yukon or other 'NGOs' as the mods will block it - even though I'm not saying anything 'hateful' or illegal or libelous.

Perhaps this will pass censorship: Wildwise and other 'NGOs' appear to mysteriously form when government insiders and their allies decide to influence public opinion so as to pass certain pre-determined policies. The level of funding support, sharing of resources and collusion between these 'NGOs' and YTG and CoW is completely disproportionate to the level of support received by any other NGO

Up 15 Down 5

Brian on May 21, 2019 at 5:52 am

Unfortunately that by-law suggestion will hold as much weight as the already implemented one about “feeding wildlife” that the suburbanites constantly do. Also the smart folks who feed bears on the side of the road.
These people with close connections to animals don’t see it as a instigating factor in animal behaviour that habituates them to human food and waste.
In a natural setting (100 miles from a community in the bush) bears won’t eat your real garbage. Maybe touch food scraps if there's fat or salt in it. So these bears/foxes/coyotes that uneducated urbanites feed and see as wild pets become a nuisances and danger to humans once their fear subsides and they become aggressive in their acquisition of calorie rewards.
So how do we not kill so many bears? Start by not feeding them, promote road side hunting to instill fear of humans into them, have a hunting buffer surrounding the city, any bear comes within it, that bear becomes a vest or coat. It won’t take 5 years for resident bears to become habituated to where not to go.
Don’t believe me, look at the elk and their tight range area that is managed by allowing harvests outside the core range.
It works, just some soft palmed city people won’t like the truth.

Up 30 Down 1

Miles Canyon on May 20, 2019 at 11:54 am

Not sure we need overlap between city bylaws and what conservation officers do.

Up 29 Down 0

Kj on May 20, 2019 at 6:00 am

So...not a single comment in favor of the bylaw. Common sense says it won’t work. Yup. It’ll pass. Of course it will.

Up 34 Down 3

No Excuse for Killing Bears on May 18, 2019 at 2:40 pm

We never had this many bear problems before when all of our garbage was picked up once a week. Now the garbage in the bottom of the bin has been rotting and attracting bears for two weeks before it's collected.
The solution to the problem is simple. Put all garbage in whatever bin will get picked up next week so it doesn't have time to rot and attract bears. The dump employees will sort it out, that's what they get paid for.
Do this and fewer bears will be attracted to our garbage and get killed.

Up 34 Down 0

At home in the Yukon on May 18, 2019 at 2:38 pm

First, I remember some years ago, I used to put my garbage out to the street in the morning. The garbage truck came at about 10:00 to pick it up. Great. Then one day the garbage truck started coming at around 8:00. Oops.

Second, what about shift workers who need their sleep until, say, noon? This would be a major hassle.
Third, when my garbage is not "at the street" it is still potentially accessible to bears.
Let's try a smarter solution than this. I would consider the bear proof container a solution.

Up 35 Down 2

MItch on May 18, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Saying I can only put my garbage to the curb the morning of collections is unfair for those who do not work the traditional 8-5 workday. I put mine out before going to bed because with my schedule, I do not get up until noon. So now I have to get up early to put my garbage out and be tired all day?

Keeping your garbage in your back yard? well if you live on a green belt, your back yard is closer to the bears so just how does that help. I have lived in Whitehorse my whole life and we have never had a bear in our garbage nor has anyone I know.

I think the problem is people who are uneducated about bears that are the issue. If people would stop stressing about the bears, the majority of them will move on. Learn what to do if you encounter a bear to keep yourself safe. For the most part they are beautiful, peaceful animal who would prefer to avoid humans.

Up 21 Down 2

Mr M on May 18, 2019 at 9:38 am

We live in the Wilderness City don't we. The only way fines or things get enforced is if someone complains. Then sometimes if you don't leave your contact information the problem doesn't get passed onto Bylaw.

Up 27 Down 3

Fines and more fines on May 18, 2019 at 9:38 am

Do we not realize that we live in the “wilderness city”? Unfortunately wildlife is close by, and can sniff out rotting compost or garbage whether it’s in the back yard or front yard. I myself would sooner a bear be wandering out near the street than hiding in my back yard. At least more people will be aware. There comes a point where safety of people, children and yes, even the bear should trump making another bylaw that will make no difference. You basically have two choices, relocate or destroy a problem bear. What’s next, bylaws and fines for having a raspberry bush or Saskatoon tree? Bears have a keen sense of smell and will find compost or garbage if it’s on the curb or in your back yard. Even locked up in a shed. We have a bear out at our Tagish property that the neighbour calls a friendly bear. Mostly because he can yell at it and make it retreat. But what if that bear comes around with cubs? In the city we have children playing and walking to school. I guess until a tragedy happens, we will just worry about if the compost is on the curb or beside the house.

Up 25 Down 3

Wilf on May 17, 2019 at 10:18 pm

There is no data to show how many bear problems there is with home garbage.
We don't need all season bear proof cans for bears.
Find out where the problem areas are and then make your plan.
I tried to tell this to the mayor and he said it will not work.

Up 23 Down 7

Politico on May 17, 2019 at 5:22 pm

How about getting Conservation Officers to write up people who leave attractants out instead of shooting bears!

Up 16 Down 8

Groucho d'North on May 17, 2019 at 5:22 pm

Simple solution: If the Conservations Officers are called to your property to deal with a bear, they conduct a short-form investigation to determine if anything was done incorrectly with garbage or other attractants that brought the bear there. If items are found, you get fined enough to make it sting and encourage you to not do it again. Keep it simple, deal with the offenders and not the myriad new-age ways to contain garbage.
Further, If you have stinky garbage a few days before the scheduled City pick-up you are required to take it to the dump. And the tipping fees could be adjusted to include a charge of $1 per bag in addition to the present 8 bags for $5. I suspect some are waiting until they have enough bags of garbage to make the trip worthwhile and these are beckoning to the bears in the area.

Up 73 Down 2

Mick on May 17, 2019 at 4:00 pm

So the bin beside my house can't be smelled by bears until I roll it to the curb at night?
Has this woman ever walked out into the real world?

Up 56 Down 0

Steven Graham on May 17, 2019 at 3:46 pm

Let's be real here. Bylaw "cops" aren't going to enforce this. There is already a bylaw for bins being out past the collection days, and that's definitely not enforced by bylaw. In fact, unless someone calls, bylaw gets a failing grade for being proactive for bylaw issues.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.