CANMORE – Mayor John Borrowman is calling on the public to do more to eliminate wildlife attractants, otherwise the Town of Canmore may have to beef up enforcement and implement steeper fines.
His comments follow two incidents earlier this month where black bears found unnatural food sources.
In the first incident, a Fish and Wildlife officer had to kill a black bear on May 2 in the Peaks of Grassi neighbourhood after it got into unsecured garbage. The medium-sized bear was relocated last summer after it got into garbage in the same neighbourhood.
In the second incident, a mamma bear and her three cubs were spotted feasting on illegally dumped grain along Highway 1A between Canmore and Exshaw on May 11. It’s not clear where the grain came from, but there were concerns the bears could be hit along the highway or on the train tracks.
Borrowman said the incidents show that people aren’t taking human-wildlife coexistence seriously enough and it might be time for the Town to take a more heavy-handed approach.
“It’s starting to feel like the only way to get compliance and to have our regulations acknowledged and acted on by individual residents is by using penalties and enforcement,” said Borrowman, explaining he intends to bring the issue to administration and council to address the issue.
“I’ve always been an optimist in a sense that I think people will do what they know to be the right thing, but experience is teaching us otherwise, so I’m disappointed with what’s happening and I’m frustrated that we’re going to have to get heavy-handed.”
He said council had to take a hardline approach several years ago when Airbnb vacation rentals began to squeeze people out of the rental market.
To deal with the issue, the Town of Canmore hired a contract employee to investigate complaints in the community about illegal vacation rentals and increase compliance through education and stop orders. The bylaw also included a $2,500 fine for first offences.
Borrowman said he didn’t want to preempt discussions on how to improve the town’s wildlife attractant bylaw, however he said it could be stronger.
“Our current wildlife attractant bylaw is not as aggressive as is could be,” said Borrowman. “We could start by beefing up the terms of the bylaw itself and perhaps discuss stiffer penalties.”
Under the Town’s current bylaw, residents can be fined a minimum of $250 if a wildlife attractant is accessible or could attract dangerous wildlife.
Residents can also be fined a minimum of $250 if their fruit trees are not picked, or they have a birdfeeder between April 1 and Nov. 30. During the winter month’s bird feeders must be suspended so they are not accessible to wildlife other than birds.
“At the end of the day, all of that is only good if we dedicate the resources that are required to bring compliance,” said Borrowman.
He acknowledged that many residents are already doing their part to eliminate wildlife attractants, however he said more needs to be done.
“We’re going to keep seeing bears dying unless we all really take a hold of this,” said Borrowman. “We have to do better.”