City staff researching bear-resistant waste containers, but say there are challenges for introducing them to Kamloops

Bear containers a challenge

The City of Kamloops has looked into bear-resistant waste containers, but some challenges stand in the way of introducing new carts, according to the city’s streets and environmental services manager.

City staff appeared before the city's civic operations committee in late September, providing an overview of the city’s wildlife management strategy — including measures taken to reduce human-bear conflicts — adding that staff are exploring the availability of compatible, bear resistant waste containers.

Glen Farrow told Castanet the city meets regularly with WildSafeBC, conservation officers and other stakeholders to ensure staff is doing all they can to reduce bear attractants and encourage bear smart practices in the city.

However, Farrow said it has been difficult finding containers that aren’t too costly and are compatible with the city’s current waste collection method.

“Our greatest challenge with our system is for garbage, recycling and now organics, is our trucks are fully automated, so the operators don’t get in and out of the truck each time they pick a cart,” Farrow said.

Farrow said a waste container would need to be designed so they can continue collecting using the automated system, as an operator having to get in and out of a truck would “completely defeat the purpose of the type of fleets and trucks we have established.”

He said the city is currently purchasing containers that cost about $70, but bear-resistant containers run from $250 to $300 each, a “significant uptick,” and only come in one size. The City of Kamloops offers its residents four sizes of containers.

“I've been very hesitant to march forward with with expanding and getting these bear resistant containers,” Farrow said.

Farrow said another challenge is deciding where to roll out bear-resistant carts, if the city did obtain them. He pointed out if containers are provided to residences in one neighbourhood, the bears may just be pushed to another neighbourhood.

He said the city has also discussed alternative options with other municipalities including Port Coquitlam, which uses a steel band bracket system to secure bins.

“There's carabiners on the lid, strapping, there’s lots of different options that we looked at and considered, but we really haven't found that silver bullet or that ultimate solution that will keep bears out.”

Prince George and Squamish, other municipalities who use bear-resistant waste containers, have given “mixed reviews” on their systems.

“At this point, based on the research we've done with these other communities, I don't see us moving forward with with any of the current products that are on the market right now,” Farrow said.

He said there are other ways that Kamloops can reduce bear attractants — methods the city received recognition for by being designated the province’s first WildSafe Bear Smart community in 2009.

“We got that designation based on having a containerization program to begin with, rather than just having bags and loose garbage on the streets, it was a fully contained cart,” Farrow said.

In a report to the Civic Operations committee, city staff said to maintain WildSafe BC’s Bear Smart designation, the city actively works with the organization to promote awareness around human-bear conflict.

Mackenzie Irwin, a community coordinator for WildSafeBC, said bear resistant garbage containers would make an impact in the city, if implemented.

“A lot of the conflict bears we have in Kamloops are those that have been accessing garbage,” Irwin said.

“It’s definitely another level of deterrent that would be helpful in reducing conflict.”

Irwin said one of their messages for residents is to keep their garbage carts secured indoors, in a garage or a shed, and for residents that don’t have closed garages, there are ways that bins can be secured when they aren't put out for collection.

A city bylaw is in place which includes a seasonal restriction on when waste containers can be set at the curb. Residents are also encouraged to manage other possible attractants, like bird feeders, BBQ’s, backyard composters and fruit that falls from trees.

Farrow said 2021 has been a particularly challenging year for wildlife interactions, with a dry spring and wildfires drawing animals, including bears, into the city to find food.

He said there are many factors that can draw wildlife into a city.

“The container is only one small part of it, where you're putting that container, what you're putting in that container, those are all the things we try to focus on, and do a better job of educating and communicating out to the public,” Farrow said.

“It's a lot more holistic.”

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