By CARMEN WELD
A Kelowna woman is fuming mad and outing her neighbours for their complete disregard of the bear population.
Amanda Martineau has lived in the Okanagan for 21 years and said she is fed up with people's attitudes towards bears.
She recently moved in to the Glen Valley neigbourhood near Knox Mountain and was disgusted to find the majority of her neighbours had put out their garbage Monday evening before 7 p.m., 12 hours before garbage pickup.
Surprising actions to her, considering all the media coverage on the danger of this to bears and the bylaws that explicitly prohibit garbage being put out until the morning of garbage day.
“Explain to me why is it that 20 of my neighbours already have their bins out, nearly 12 full hours before collection is even set to begin?” wrote Martineau to Castanet.
“Could it be that they haven't heard of this bylaw? Or perhaps they haven't been following the news closely enough? Or maybe they haven't been walking in the neighbourhood to see the large (and numerous) piles of bear poop along the sidewalks and forest paths.”
She is frustrated with her neighbours' apparent lack of concern over how their actions could cost a bear its life.
To further her point, she shared her own personal story about a garbage-habituated backyard bear that came within feet of her father in Shannon Lake.
“A neighbour had already notified a conservation officer about the bear, and within minutes the bear had been shot down out of a tree and taken away.
“ ‘We will have to put him down,’ ” the conversation officer told us, ‘He is a garbage bear. I hate doing this,’ ” said Martineau.
She notes multiple garbage-habituated bears have recently been put down in across B.C., including nine in Revelstoke.
Stories that have been all over the media and should be a wake-up call to those still putting their garbage out the night before.
“Still doesn't ring a bell?” asked Martineau.
“The only reason the bears are downtown Kelowna, Penticton, Revelstoke, Nelson and so on is because of us. The only reason these beautiful creatures have to die this way is because of us.
“What we fail to see is that we are the problem.”
A problem Andrea Tait is hoping to work on.
Tait is WildSafeBC community co-ordinator for Okanagan-Westside.
Her job is to inform and educate the public on bear awareness.
Tait said this time of year is especially bad as bears are fattening up for winter and are searching for food.
“We have a lot of bear activity this time of year as bears go through hyperphagia, when they are increasing their body weight by consuming about 20,000 calories every day,” said Tait. “Their ultimate goal is to increase their body weight by about 30 per cent over the season. From now until about mid-October.”
She said if we are leaving our garbage out and leaving it is an attractant in our community, we are inviting those bears into the community.
“Our ultimate goal is to keep the wildlife wild and keep our community safe,” said Tait.
“If we put the bear at risk, we are doing so by making the bear human habituated.”
Tait has noticed a lot of new residents on the westside that aren't necessarily used to living in bear country and she thinks it is a matter of a learning curve.
“I think everyone wants to do the right thing, they just need to learn how,” said Tait.
For those who need or want more information, Tait invites residents to check out WildSafeBC.com.
As for Martineau, she begs the people of the Okanagan to think about the bears.
“These creatures existed here long before us and (with any luck and a bit of consideration) they will exist long after us as well,” said Martineau.
“But, in order for there to even be a glimmer of hope for this in the future, we need to take responsibility; we need to do the hardest thing a living creature with a big human brain must do, we must change.
“I mean really. We'll wake up early, drive three blocks out of the way, wait 15 minutes in line, and pay $8 for a cup of bad coffee, but we can't get our butts out of bed three minutes early to take out the trash?
“To take out our own mess for collection so that a bear doesn't get "caught" ravaging a neighbourhood, and killed? It's explicitly selfish.”