By KATE BOUEY
Fruit and garbage are bringing bears into the town of Revelstoke, leading to a number of frightening encounters with the large mammals and a number of bear kills, including one in the downtown this week.
Since Aug. 1, there have been 40 reports of bears in Revelstoke.
“Typically, spring and fall are the high volume seasons for bear calls, but it seems earlier than last year,” said Dan Bartol, a conservation officer based in Golden. “The problem started escalating Aug. 1.”
With the increased volume of calls, Bartol started working out how to reduce the hazard and mapping out hot spots.
“The attractants are fruit and garbage and the extent of the problem is very discouraging.”
Bartol has had to put down eight garbage-habituated bears in Revelstoke this week, including one very public shooting. Another bear was destroyed because it was suffering from a serious injury.
On Tuesday afternoon, the conservation officer was called to the downtown where a bear was “feeding on a pile of buckets full of food by a dumpster” in an alley near a local restaurant, said Bartol, describing it as a buffet.
The animal ate and wandered around parked cars before eating some more. When he went back into the alley, Bartol and the officers decided it was a safe shooting zone. The animal was hit, moved out into the street, fell and was shot again in full public view.
Bartol is clearly distraught over the encounter.
“To destroy a huge animal like that is one of the saddest things for a conservation officer. To do it downtown in front people is one of the most stressful things an officer is going to do in their life.”
Another bear was put down this week after residents left garbage on a deck. The residents tried to clean it up and had to escape inside when the animal charged them, Bartol said.
“The number one attractant is garbage,” said Maggie Spizzirri, community coordinator for Revelstoke's Bear Aware Society. “Last year 65 per cent of bear culls were due to garbage. Next to that would be fruit trees.”
Spizzirri urged residents to prune their fruit trees and pick up windfalls as well as keep their garbage inside a locked garage or the basement.
“If it smells, it is probably the meat so put it in the freezer until garbage day.”
Spizzirri said Revelstoke should have its own conservation officer to attend to bear sightings.
“I think that would solve a lot of the problems,” she said. “There would be faster response times, but once a bear gets garbage habituated, there is only one option.”