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feeding wildlife

By Loreth Beswetherick Local conservation officers have had some fire-power added to their arsenal of weapons — including possible jail terms for people who leave garbage out where animals can get it. The Ministry of Environment announced this week the Wildlife Act has been amended, making it an offence to intentionally feed or attract wildlife by leaving garbage out. This is something the Jennifer Jones Whistler Bear Foundation had been campaigning for since at least 1997. The Ministry of Environment's Alex Drabowski said the new legislation is designed to help reduce the number of bear/human interactions as well as decrease the growing number of bears throughout the province that rely on people for food. Most of those bears end up having to be killed because they pose a risk too great to humans. "These changes to the Wildlife Act give conservation officers more ability to go into places where we have problem animals, like bears and cougars, and make sure these sites, if there is garbage around, get cleaned up." Drabowski said the conservation officers need the added enforcement power to get their message across and "help educate people about garbage and how it attracts wildlife." In terms of the Act, COs can now issue a landowner — or person in control of the land — an order to remove attractants like garbage, food waste or compost. If the warning is ignored, landowners can face a $100 fine or be taken to court. Should the CO decide to pursue the court route, violators could face up to $50,000 in fines and/or a six-month prison term for a first offence. For a second conviction, the penalty could run up to $100,000 and/or a maximum prison term of one year. In terms of municipal bylaws, the fine for not disposing of garbage properly is $75. Whistler bear researcher Michael Allen said the $75 penalty is a joke, especially when the offending garbage results in a bear getting shot. "It should be more like $5,000," he said.

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