Request for variance to keep chickens and ducks in Nelson city limits denied, again
Another request to keep chickens within Nelson city limits has flown the coop at City Hall.
City council voted against a request from a Rosemont resident seeking an exemption from the Animal Regulation and Control Bylaw, which prohibits the keeping of animals or poultry, except for a dog or cat from being kept within the city.
The decision means Stephanie Gibson must re-home the four hens and two ducks she had kept at her property within 30 days.
The city’s Bylaw department had received a complaint from a neighbour with regard to the presence of the hens and ducks at Gibson’s property last month. Gibson had contacted the city and requested a bylaw exemption, allowing her to continue keeping the birds within the city at that point.
But city council again did not uphold the request for an exemption, concurring with a city staff recommendation from city deputy corporate officer Gabriel Bouvet-Boisclair that the housing of hens and ducks could serve as an attractant to animal life.
“This can lead to human-bear conflict, which typically results in the destruction of bears,” he wrote. “Additionally, as mentioned by WildsafeBC, rats are beginning to be a problem in the Rosemont area and animal feed is a contributor to this.”
He also felt an exemption would create additional requests from other residents and a precedent making it difficult to formulate any rational basis to deny future requests.
“Out of fairness for residents, bylaws should be applied consistently and fairly; bylaws should only be relaxed where some unique circumstances warrant it,” Bouvet-Boisclair wrote.
“Accordingly, rather than grant one-off exemptions where there is no unique or compelling reason to do so, council should generally seek to enforce its bylaws.”
WildSafeBC recommended that, if urban livestock were allowed, it would require electric fencing. Nelson currently has a bylaw prohibiting electric fencing.
“As for this specific situation, Rosemont is an area of high wildlife traffic including grizzlies, black bear, cougar and coyote,” noted a position paper on the matter from WildSafeBC.
“The Wassen and Munro areas are very active for human wildlife conflict with black bear as there are many attractants and human based food sources in the area.”
The city’s own bylaw officers agreed with WildSafeBC.
“The city’s Bylaw Enforcement department is strongly opposed to granting the request for exemption based largely on the fact that poultry within city limits increases the chances of bear-human conflicts,” the paper noted.
In a letter to council Gibson wrote that the birds had become like family and had helped her in her struggle with post-partum depression.
“Our two-year-old daughter has gained valuable life lessons, knowledge and enjoyment from having pet hens and ducks, collecting the eggs has become part of her daily routine,” she wrote.
“She spends most of her time outside feeding them, turning over stones to find them bugs and having them sit on her lap.
“I have also found great peace in keeping them. I was diagnosed with severe post-partum anxiety and depression last winter and my birds bring me a sense of daily accomplishment and relaxation.”
In wake of council’s decision Gibson took her case online and has established a www.change.orgpetition to try and bring back the request for a variance and establish a “test run” for the safe keeping of ducks and chickens in Nelson.
Eight years ago Conservation Officer Service conducted a bear attractant assessment within the City of Nelson and found a high number of bear attractants accessible (77 per cent compliance).
Over the last seven years the Conservation Officer Service, Nelson City Police and RCMP have responded to 867 human/bear conflicts in the Nelson area and out of those 42 black bears and two grizzly bears were destroyed due to public safety concerns.
During the past two years alone in the West Kootenay, conservation officers have responded to 96 human/bear conflicts where chickens and chicken feed were the attractant.
Out of these occurrences, 19 black bears and 4 grizzly bears were destroyed and two grizzly bear cubs were orphaned and subsequently sent to a rehabilitation facility.
“To further complicate these incidents, several of the black bears and all of the grizzly bears were killed by the chicken owners themselves to protect their investments. These incidents caused further investigation by the Conservation Officer Service to ensure the bears destruction were justifiable and necessary,” wrote conservation officer Jason Hawkes at the Nelson office.
“The majority of these conflicts could have been avoided if proper animal husbandry practices were taken including predator-exclusion electric fencing and secure feed storage designed to deter bear accessibility.
“This may seem like a reasonable solution but time and time again attractants are found unsecured, conflicts occur and bears are destroyed.”
Source: City of Nelson