The Get Bear Smart Society is hoping to solve "Whistler's trash dilemma" with a new program aimed at getting residents' garbage to the community's waste depots.
4theloveofBears was launched last week as a way to connect people in the community without access to a garbage room or vehicle with drivers who can help transport their trash to the Nesters or Function Junction recycling sites.
"Our entire goal with this is to take a chunk out of (the problem), and in particular help those who are stockpiling garbage for an entire season because they have no access to the waste depot," explained BearSmart director Sylvia Dolson. "That has been a huge problem over the years. Bears that have accessed that stockpile of trash more than once, or even sometimes just once, have learned that homes have food, and so they've also learned to break into homes on spec, which is a real problem since everyone's home has food in it."
Modeled after the popular Sea to Sky Hitch-a-Ride ridesharing page, the program has been in the works for several months, and includes a short, humourous video outlining the initiative, a poster campaign, and the Facebook page where rides can be organized. The initiative will also be a part of this year's Welcome Week activities and the Whistler Experience program.
"Eventually we're hoping that people make longstanding arrangements that can help them regularly," said Dolson.
Due to concerns over cost and the safety of wildlife, Whistler has never instituted a curbside trash pickup program. Several ideas have been floated over the years to tackle the problem, and various private companies have charged for refuse removal services. Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden even suggested that BC Transit soften its restrictions on bringing trash on the bus, but the Crown agency wouldn't budge.
"We have gone to council over the past 15 years with lots of different ideas. One was for a communal waste system similar to what they have in Canmore, but none of the ideas have taken off here and they've all been very expensive," Dolson said. "We actually do have a bear-proof waste system, it's just that the folks without cars don't really fit in too well."
For more information or to arrange a ride, visit www.4theloveofbears.com.
The importance of properly securing attractants hit home last week after a bear was killed when it broke into a car parked on Blackcomb Way and forced its way into the trunk.
"We're not talking about a bear just opening a door and accessing a wrapper, but a bear that's spending a lot of time in the vehicle and creating a lot of property damage," said Sgt. Simon Gravel with the Conservation Officer Service (COS). "(The bears) are very, very hungry and they will be persistent."
The bear was not tagged and its history of conflict was unknown to the COS, although Gravel said it had accessed garbage around the village in the days leading up to the Oct. 20 break-in and was hazed by officers several times.
"That level of property damage, in addition to the bear's behaviour, the difficulty to haze him and his persistence to access food in the village and surrounding areas met the threshold... to kill him," explained Gravel.
A total of six bears have been killed by the COS and RCMP during a season where Whistler's bruins are struggling to fatten up before hibernation with a weak autumn berry crop.
"We're asking people to be extremely diligent in securing food and garbage in a place that's impossible to access," Gravel urged. "A trunk in a vehicle is not a secure place and can lead to extensive property damage and a bear's destruction."