What’s left of two pails of garbage after bears helped themselves the night before. (Submitted photo)

‘Garbage-fed bears are dead bears’ – South Okanagan conservation officer

Conservation is getting tough with those who refuse to manage bear attractants

The Western News recently went on patrol with Sgt. James Zucchelli of the Penticton B.C. Conservation Officer Service office as part of a province-wide, attractant management crackdown now underway.

With lives at risk, the gloves are off for conservation officers dealing with people unwilling to manage wildlife attractants.

Right now the concern is the potentially deadly combination of bears, garbage and fruit.

Sgt. James Zucchelli of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service explains the dangers of leaving garbage out overnight to the manager of a business as part of a province-wide attactant management campaign. (Mark Brett – Western News)

This particular evening Sgt. James Zucchelli, a 20-year veteran of the service, is patrolling the Uplands/Carmi and Upper Bench Road regions looking for garbage in non-bear proof containers that have been put out too soon, being left to sit overnight when bears are most active.

“We are tired of having to kill bears because of people’s lack of responsibility,” said Zucchelli. “We’re going to start dropping the hammer, issuing orders, giving tickets. They call them ‘nuisance bears’ but there’s no such thing as a nuisance bear, I believe there’s nuisance people out there.

“Hopefully by doing this we can spur on the communities and community groups to get on board and say ‘no we can’t keep doing this’ in this day of age we need to evolve our mentality around attractant management.”

READ MORE: Garbage attracts bears, put it away or face fines: B.C. conservation officers

Offenders face Wildlife Act tickets ranging from $345 to $575, or even a court date, depending on the severity of the offence.

The patrol this evening through the Uplands region happily doesn’t turn up too many early garbage containers but the Upper Bench region is a different story.

Spotting a couple of cans in front of a business, Zucchelli pulls into the parking lot and goes to find the manager.

After a discussion the two containers are removed.

A short distance away in the 400-block of Upper Bench Road an overflowing garbage container has just been set out on the roadside.

The officer attempts to contact somebody at the residence, not having any luck he wheels the container back up the driveway to the locked gate and leaves one of his business cards.

“We’re done with continually going to communities over and over again to say ‘please put away your garbage, it’s attracting bears and creating a public safety threat,’” said Zucchelli, adding municipalities and regional districts must also step up to the plate with their own bylaws and enforcement to help correct the problem.

“We’re not killing every bear that shows up in a residential area, we’re giving the bears a chance, we’re giving the people a chance to manage their attractants,” he said.

As of mid August, there had been over 10,000 reports of human and bear conflicts in B.C.

Zucchelli adds it’s a popular myth that relocation is the simple solution.

Walking away with a bag of garbage, this bear has lost all fear of humans and will not go back to its natural food source. (Submitted photo)

“It is an inhumane way of managing the problem, it makes everybody feel good, it’s a feel good story to relocate bears, but the reality of it is the relocated bears are dying a horrible death,” he said. “If you take that bear out its home range it’s going to die trying to get back, or it’s going to get eaten by the bears that live there, starve and be more susceptible to hunter harvest.

“It’s like putting a Band Aid on an infected wound, you’re just covering it up for the moment, you’re not dealing with the underlying problem and it’s going to fester underneath.”

There are the added problems of spreading disease, reaction to tranquilizing drugs and a genetics component of the animals’ home range.

In one case a relocated bear travelled over 600 kilometres to get back to where it was caught. From Penticton that’s almost the distance to Calgary or Prince George.

There are special exceptions for relocations including at-risk species and in the case where a mother dies and the cubs are healthy and not human habituated.

READ MORE: Bears in South Okanagan searching for food before hibernating

This evening’s work finishes at dusk and Zucchelli sits in the truck wrapping up the paperwork under the interior light.

“We need the community to take responsibility for themselves. Garbage fed bears are dead bears.”

For information on how to resolve or avoid wildlife conflict go to https://wildsafebc.com and the public is urged to report any conflict by calling the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.


 

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