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Trashed for killing bears

Two days after a momma bear and her cubs were shot and killed in Summerland, neighbours are still fuming.

They say this is just another case of conservation officers choosing to destroy, rather than relocate, neighbourhood wildlife.

Locals, Claudette Murti and Tena Beattie, had seen the bear and her two cubs around the neighbourhood and both knew the bears' fate when they heard the fatal gunshot sounds on Monday. They are both disgusted the bears were not given the chance to relocate.

“I heard the gun shots and it was just so loud I jumped out of my skin. I was hoping that they were tranquilized, but later found out they were indeed killed and I was really heartbroken by it,” said Murti.

“They are living beings, they have as much right to be on this planet as we do, their creator is our creator.”

“I heard two gun shots, and I have never heard a gun shot before it was so loud, so I ran outside and we realized what it was,” explained Beattie. “It is very sad, because that bear and her cubs have been in this neighbourhood for a long time and she has never disturbed anybody.”

Conservation officer Barb Leslie says the bears' general health factored into the conservation department’s decision to put them down, as did the fact the animals continually seek out easy food sources regardless of any proximity to humans.

The explanation doesn't cut it with the locals.

“They said they made a decision that they needed to be put down because of their ill health, but is he a veterinarian? How can you really tell by looking? Especially because my neighbours saw them playing in their backyard the day before, and climbing up and down trees, would a sick bear really be doing that?” questioned Murti.

Murti's husband Vince Murti shared the same sentiment on what he calls a gutless shooting.

“The point is, who are you to decide? Why can we not, as human beings, let Mother Nature take its course. If that is supposed to happen in the wilderness then let it happen. What gives you the right to pick up a gun? Just because you have the authority and power to do so you decide I am god and I am doing this and that is what is really pisses me off and that is not right,” argued Vince Murti.

“They should have been darted and relocated. I heard they cannot be relocated because of other bear territories, and they don’t want to place them in danger in another bear territory. But instead they decided to play god and kill them themselves rather than letting them duke it out in the wild and giving them a fair chance,” added Claudette Murti.

“They could have relocated them. They said they were not healthy, but they were fine,” said Beattie.

Conservation says the bears had made the area home because of the ample supply of garbage and these bears were specifically caught pulling garbage out of a pickup truck in a lot rented by Rob Earle.

“A customer's pick-up was out in the yard and I hadn't had a chance to work on it and the bears came down and opened the canopy and got in and took the garbage out that was in there. I guess some other people had been leaving their garbage around as well,” said Earle.

He says he understands conservation had to do what they did for the safety of the neighbourhood.

“I think you have to at that point, they are basically a predatory animal right now and the fact they are going into a car like that they can get into balconies and shops and do whatever they want,” said Earle.

Conservation officers are pleading with the public again to be more vigilant about cleaning up after themselves and preventing issues like this from occurring.





Shed fire at motel

A small shed fire broke out on the property of the Swiss Sunset Inn, late Tuesday night, but the blaze did not extend to the motel itself.

According to witnesses at the scene, three fire engines and two-dozen firefighters converged on the scene.

Management at the motel confirms that the building was not affected and it is open for business as usual.



3 bears put down

A mother bear and her two cubs were killed on Monday after they had been seen living off of garbage in Summerland, with no fear of human interaction.

Conservation officer Barb Leslie says they have been getting calls about bears coming out of hibernation at the lower elevations since early March, but this case was a little different.

“That sow and cubs had denned up in a culvert in Lower Summerland. We had started receiving sightings of them being out of the culvert around mid-March. The cubs had actually lost their fear of people and were getting into a lot of garbage,” explained Leslie.

“The hillside was littered with the garbage and any place we could see where they bedded down, there was all garbage around it.”

Leslie says they were called out Monday to a property near the Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa. Evidently the cubs had been going in and out of a pickup truck canopy, where the garbage had been stored.

“(The sow) went out looking for easy food and taught her cubs how to find easy food. And because the hillsides haven’t really greened up yet, the garbage was a high calorie source for them. So they got very quickly habituated to the garbage and its unfortunate that we had to put down the whole family unit.”

The general health of the animals factored into the conservation department’s decision to put them down, as did the bears decisions to continually seek out easy food sources regardless of any proximity to humans.

Leslie also points out the female bear was estimated to be around 250 pounds, or very large for a bear who had supposedly just awoken from a winter hibernation. Meanwhile the cubs were estimated to be around 50 pounds each. This was considered small for bears that were in their second year.

“She obviously didn’t hibernate,” says Leslie, who theorizes the bear had been eating garbage all winter.

“We know we’re not popular with the people in that community, but with facing public safety issues, the decision was made. We have to protect the public and unfortunately in this situation for the bears, the garbage killed them."

Leslie also offered up some tips that the public can use to ensure animals don’t wind up in the same predicament.

  • Keep garbage locked up until the morning of pick-up.
  • Don’t leave anything available in your yard.
  • Keep the area inhospitable to bears.

Conservation officers are keeping an eye on a handful of other bears in the area, but Leslie says those animals have posed no risk to the public at this time, and have not come down looking for easy food.

Send photos and video of the Summerland bears to [email protected]



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Acquittal in waste case

Two men from the Penticton area facing charges related to the burning of demolition waste were acquitted in a Penticton courtroom on Tuesday.

Douglas Cotter, of Cotter's Bin and Demolition Service Ltd. and Penticton Indian Band member Eneas Kruger faced charges of introducing activity related waste into the environment in April of 2011.

In handing down her decision, Judge Meg Shaw described the circumstances of the case, which were part of a four day trial.

According to Shaw, conservation officers conducted surveillance and saw the transportation of demolition materials by a truck  from the Naramata packinghouse to Kruger's salvage yard.

On April 28, she stated two conservation officers observed a truck dumping materials on Kruger's land and took video. That video showed a fire burning in the vicinity.

Another witness also took photos, after following a Cotter's truck to the Kruger property.

Although witnesses stated they saw materials loaded into the fire, Shaw said there was inconclusive evidence as to what was specifically burning.

Furthermore, she stated the crown had failed to prove the smoke was from the burning of demolition materials and that any resulting smoke falls in the definition of air pollution.

She determined Kruger had indeed taken all reasonable care and believed he was complying with Penticton Indian Band regulations.

She added, the PIB has confirmed they are dealing with Kruger directly on the burning of material.

Cotter was acquitted on the same basis.

Following the decision, defence lawyer Charles Albas said the issue was very complicated, because the activity the men were charged with took place on PIB land.

"The province was trying to apply its waste management to an activity on the indian reserve, which is the exclusive right of the federal government," he said. "The Cotter company would bring material for many years, and he (Kruger), would recycle the wood, metal and steel. The only thing he burned was straight wood."

Cotter called the process a waste of time, and said he was relieved the trial was over.

"It's really good," he said. "We've been missing work, and it has had a huge financial effect on us and Eneas Kruger."

Alex Louie, the agent for Kruger, said they were happy with the decision but dissapointed with what happens with their applications in provincial court.

And Kruger said his business has been severely affected.

"Financially, it took a big toll and created family friction," he said. "My wife Gladys Kruger became the sole provider and it put us in huge debt.

Now I have to rebuild my life and the trust of people who worked for me."



No hurdles for new jail

Work is ready to go ahead on the Okanagan Correctional Centre, now that all papers have been signed between the BC government and *Plenary Justice.

Construction will begin in August on the 36-acre site, located just north of Oliver, in the Senkulmen Business Park. The agreement is performance based, with a fixed price of $192.9-million, and will be built on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band.

"Reaching a final agreement with Plenary Justice to deliver the Okanagan Correctional Centre project is a catalyst for positive economic spin-offs and the creation of 1,000 direct and indirect jobs for the South Okanagan region,” says Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

“The construction schedule for this modern, high-security correctional centre remains on track, reflecting our government's pledge to ease capacity pressures and build safer, stronger communities."

Under the terms of the agreement Plenary Justice (a private partner for the project) will design, build and partially finance the construction, and provide facilities management services for the OCC for the next 30 years.

The province signed a deal with the OIB last February to lease the land for 60 years, with an option for an additional 20 years to be tacked on later.

This high-security facility will have 378 cells and it’s anticipated the work will be completed in fall of 2016.

*Plenary Justice is a construction consortium that includes:

  • Plenary Group (Canada) Ltd.
  • PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc.
  • Honeywell Limited (Canada)
  • Jug Island Consulting Ltd.


B & E and arson

After an ongoing investigation into multiple break and enters in the Osoyoos area, the Osoyoos RCMP obtained an arrest warrant on April 11 for Scott Paquette, 47, of no fixed address.

DNA evidence linked him to a break in of a fifth wheel trailer located on Lakeshore Drive, which occurred in late January.

On April 13, the RCMP and South Okanagan Traffic Services located and arrested Paquette in Osoyoos.

He was held in custody and appeared in court the following day, where he pleaded guilty and received a 90 day jail sentence.

Also on April 11, the fire department and RCMP officers responded to a break-in and arson at Local Charlie's restaurant on 9913 Main Street.

Thieves broke into the restaurant and stole alcohol and food before setting a table on fire in the dining room area.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze and a police forensic specialist examined the scene.

The arson is under investigation by the RCMP.

If anyone has information on this crime, they are asked to call the RCMP at (250) 495-7236 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.



Landfill upcycling

A new Penticton society has embarked on an ambitious project to reduce landfill waste and employ marginalized and unemployed residents at the same time.

The Okanagan Upcycling Resource Society paid a recent visit to an RDOS board meeting to talk about  their plans for the Waste Knot effort.

"Our goal is to divert wood materials from landfill sites," said chair Lise Ecclestone. "RIght now we are looking at Campbell Mountain, then later in the summer we'll look at the Okanagan Falls' landfill. The big vision is to be able to access wood from all landfills in the South Okanagan."

The idea was first discussed a few years ago, when Ecclestone was working as a vocational counselor, along with a fellow named Clayton Truman.

It was Truman who came up with the idea of Waste Knot to create jobs, provide people in the community with affordable lumber and at the same time divert materials from the landfill, which is a huge goal of the RDOS.

The idea was put on the back burner, when Truman passed away, but came back to life about a year ago, said Ecclestone.

"We started it again because there were people in the community interested in upcycling material," she said. "We also wanted to honour Clayton for launching the initiative in 2009."

The idea was well received by the RDOS board at the last meeting and was bounced back to staff to prepare a report for moving forward and to liaison with the group, said deputy corporate officer Christy Malden.

At this point, the society has established a retail site in partnership with the Penticton and District Society for Community Living. 

Some materials have been moved to the location on Industrial Avenue, and they are in the process of developing the site.

This week they hope to meet with RDOS staff. The next step will be to access grants and capital that will help get the project off the ground and pay workers from the community living society.

Up to now everyone has been a volunteer.

"This presents an opportunity to reuse waste material, employ people in woodworking and return lumber products to the community," said upcycling member Edward Ecclestone. "It's a win win for everybody."

 



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