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Bear problem in Nelson continues as solutions sought to deter

It’s the same old story in Nelson in the fall: bears.

Nelson has had quite a bit of contact with bears this summer, says the conservation sergeant for the West Kootenay area, and the situation could worsen this fall as fruit ripens on the trees and bears are attracted to the smell.

Although the number of bears trapped and killed isn’t yet known, said Sgt. Arnold DeBoon from Creston, the problem has picked up from where it left off last year.

“We’ve had sightings of grizzly bears in some of the same areas we did last year,” he said. “But those aren’t the same bears because there are quite a few grizzlies around.”

Complaints about bears, including black bears, are relatively high in Nelson this year, said DeBoon, as in Grand Forks, but complaints were lower in Castlegar.

But north of Nelson in the Slocan Valley, New Denver is rated as one of the worst afflicted areas in the entire West Kootenay region for human-bear conflicts, DeBoon said. There have already been eight bears trapped and destroyed this year in the north valley village — more than anywhere else in the region.

Call it the battle of the Baby Boom Bruins, but the problem of bears could be tied to an abundant crop of huckleberries two years ago in the Kootenays, said DeBoon.

When sows go into their den for the winter in a healthy state with a good layer of fat, he said, they certainly can have more offspring than if they were in poor condition.

“Bear populations, as are other wildlife populations, are cyclical to food availability and that appears to be one of the contributing factors here,” he said.

An increase in bear population and a scarcity of berries in the upper reaches of the region due to a late spring has bear boomers looking in the valley bottom in search of food.

Nelson now has a wildlife attractant bylaw (3198 Waste Management and Wildlife Attractant Bylaw), that among other things, restricts the presence of curb-side garbage to the hours of 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the day of collection.

In addition, garbage must be stored in a wildlife resistant structure or garbage container.

Nelson Area E and F Bear Aware will be tagging garbage out on the curb overnight with bright yellow “Bear Attractant” stickers. 

“We hope such tagging will remind people to keep garbage secured in a bear resistant container or structure until the morning of collection,” said Joanne Siderius, Bear Aware coordinator. “Garbage is a bucket of bear food – let’s not create a bear smorgasbord on our streets the night before collection.”

Bear resistant garbage cans

Bear Aware has worked with Nelson Farmer’s Supply to bring a sample bear-resistant can from Rollin’s Machinery into Farmer’s Supply. 

People can order similar or larger cans from Rollins through Farmer’s Supply. There are other bear-resistant containers available and you can visit to find the best option for your needs.

These cans have been properly tested against grizzly bears. They provide an option for people unable to store garbage in a secure structure between collection days. Bear-resistant cans must be kept clean and secured to keep a bear from taking the entire can.

Good fences and good cans make good neighbours

Nelson, Area E and F Bear Aware has now lent out nine electric fencing setups to residents to protect chickens and fruit trees from bears. 

Properly installed and maintained electric fencing does discourage bears. Eleven people attended their recent electric fencing workshop (sponsored by the CBT and RDCK). 

There are now no more fences to lend for this season, but you can still contact Bear Aware ( for information and assistance with fencing. 

Garbage is still the primary bear attractant in the area and across the province.

  • Learn how to live in bear country – explore more solutions at 
  • Please contact the Conservation Officer Service at the RAPP line (1-877-952-7277) with any bear sightings, property or safety concerns. 

Bear Aware gratefully acknowledges support from the Columbia Basin Trust and the RDCK.