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Bear facts: waste review comes at considerable cost but still being pondered

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
December 21st, 2022

One of the most active bear seasons in some time in 2022 in Nelson could prompt city council to dive into the dumpster of how to handle waste management in the new year, but it comes at considerable cost.

Acting on a notice of motion from Oct. 25 — brought forth by outgoing mayor John Dooley — the item appeared on the agenda Dec. 6 for council consideration, recommending a complete review of the waste management strategy in the city.

The motion eventually passed to direct city staff to refer the consideration of the development of a waste management strategy review to council for the next strategic planning session — with a waste management review costing between $75,000 to $100,000.

The motion was necessitated, however, after several months of repeated pressure on the previous city council and at public meetings by people asking for more frequent pick up of residential waste — currently sitting at once every two weeks.

This fall has seen an increase in human-wildlife conflict in Nelson, said Colin Innes, director of Engineering, Capital Works and Special Projects for the city.

“Seasonal environmental challenges and natural food availability contributed to an increase in black bear and other wildlife activity in Nelson,” he said in his report. “Because of the unusual number of bears and other wildlife in the city, staff and council received a number of complaints and concerns about our waste management practices.”

A comprehensive waste management review would identify “opportunities” to manage waste more effectively, with the goal of achieving zero waste in the next 10 years, he added.

Dooley felt part of the bear problem resided in the nature of the garbage people were throwing out.

“I think that from what we have been hearing from folks over the last few months, some people are throwing a lot of stuff out there that they would believe could be a solution to wildlife conflicts,” Dooley had said. “It may or may not be, but it probably should be looked at.”

As a result, the bear season in Nelson was ‘unprecedented,’ according to preliminary findings by the WildsafeBC Nelson community coordinator, Lisa Thomson.

She noted there were over 400 “sightings” in Nelson in 2022, with at least seven bears having been destroyed as a result, the highest recorded in a season since 2016.

“This year has definitely been an unprecedented season,” she said in late November. “It saw the highest number of bears lethally destroyed and this was due to food conditioning and human habituation.”

Black bears were the highest reported species in Nelson in 2022, Thomson noted, with July, August and October the highest reported months. Seasonal environmental challenges and natural food availability also contributed to the increase in black bear activity in Nelson during those months, she added.

Fairview topped the list in 2022 as the highest conflict neighbourhood in Nelson in 2022. Uphill saw some activity and the city’s downtown was also a hotbed of bear activity.

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