CANMORE – Canmore may have a new bylaw that gives it the ability to fine people with fruit trees in their yards that attract wildlife, but officials used 2019 to educate residents on the issue rather than enforce the new rules.
Council was provided with an update on the new regulations to manage fruit from trees as a wildlife attractant. Officials said bylaw peace officers favoured using education over issuing tickets and fines this year when they responded to calls for fruit on the ground, which can attract wildlife to residential properties.
"The main focus was on education over ticketing … that’s really where we’re headed, seeking education prior to ticketing," said manager of protective services Greg Burt.
“What we would do – we’d receive a call, we’d attend, we’d observe it and we’d speak with either the occupant, or try and track down the home owner, and tell them the importance of removing the fruit from the tree.
"Of the 24 calls we responded to or investigated, only two tickets were issued.”
The fruit tree initiative is part of the wildlife attractant bylaw, which was updated and approved by council in August. The updated bylaw called for increased fines from $100 to $250 and up to $10,000 for residents who leave fruit on trees, or have birdfeeders on their property when they are prohibited, which is from April 1 to Nov. 31.
As well, it allowed for bylaw peace officers to fine residents even if wildlife wasn’t in the tree. The amended bylaw specifically targeted three types of fruit bearing vegetation: crabapple and mountain ash trees, as well as shepherdia bushes, also known as a buffaloberry.
The Town identified two priority zones: the Three Sisters area, as well as downtown and south Canmore.
“The vast majority of the calls that we responded too were either in Larch downtown or in south Canmore," Burt said. "I think we’re all familiar, there were a couple of black bears that were hanging around and quite enjoying themselves in the fruit trees, cherry trees.
“In a priority one zone, [the bylaw officer would] provide them less time than in a priority two zone, but that also shifted based on the activity of the bears in the community. We did respond to a number of calls in Larch and you can see that that’s not actually a priority zone.”
Burt said 24 trees were removed through the Town’s tree removal program, which helps supplement the cost of removal for residents, at a total budget in 2019 of $3,300. The two tickets that were issued, he said, were given because occupants had been previously spoken too and were non-compliant.
Mayor John Borrowman raised concerns over signage in the Three Sisters area, which he indicated are too “polite.”
“I think we could be a little less polite on that sign, it’s like ‘please remove fruit from trees,’ ” he said.
“I think we have to be a little more direct in our language ... that’s my opinion. That sign next year when it goes out, because it will, could remind people that there is a fine for leaving fruit on the trees. Just my thought.”
As well, Borrowman indicated a common complaint the Town has received regarding the initiative is a lack of available officers to come to a property with fruit in trees. Burt said at the end of 2020, a review will be done and a discussion around a second officer dedicated to fruit trees will be on the table.
For more information around living with wildlife, visit www.wildsmart.ca, or visit the Town of Canmore’s website at canmore.ca/residents/stewardship-of-the-environment/removing-wildlife-attractants for more on the fruit tree initiative.