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Garbage problem leads to bear problem

A bylaw restricting when Summerland residents could put out their garbage would help to reduce unwanted encounters with bears, a wildlife advocate says.

Zoe Kirk, community co-ordinator of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen’s WildSafeBC program, said Summerland does not have a curbside garbage bylaw at present.

As a result, some residents will put their garbage out the night before it is to be picked up. The smell of the garbage then attracts bears and other wild animals.

So far this year two problem bears have been destroyed in Summerland and last year three or four bears were destroyed, Kirk said.

“Summerland has traditionally been a bit of a hot spot for bear encounters,” she said.

In Naramata, where a garbage bylaw was introduced several years ago, the number of encounters with bears has dropped dramatically.

In the past, bear complaints were common there and conservation officers had to destroy six to seven bears each year.

In the last three years, one problem bear had to be destroyed.

“We have no less bears there,” Kirk said.

The Naramata bylaw forbids residents from setting out their garbage until the morning it is to be picked up. While a fine is in place for violators, so far it has not been used.

Mayor Janice Perrino said a curbside garbage bylaw will likely come to the council table in the near future.

“For me, if we can save even one bear, it’s worth it,” she said.

Kirk added that the bylaw also helps to reduce the number of encounters with other wildlife, such as deer.

The WildSafeBC program recently installed six remote wildlife cameras in Summerland in order to track the movements of animals in the community.

The pictures from these cameras will then be analyzed and the data will be used to provide information about the species and their movements in the area.

The results will be provided to the municipality, giving more information for planning, conservation and wildlife management.

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