By Clare Ogilvie
Whistler is just weeks into its bear season and already three young bears are dead.
Two of the bears had to be destroyed by conservation officers for breaking into cars and homes and this week a third had to be euthanized after being hit by a car as it ran across the highway between a garbage collection site and the waste transfer station.
A few days prior to the bear being hit it was feeding at the Function Junction compactor site said Conservation Officer Chris Doyle.
“It was immobilized by our new seasonal conservation officer… and tagged and released a short distance away,” he said.
“Then just a few days later we got a call that it had been run over.”
The bears around Function have been developing some troubling habits — getting into the recycling bins or pulling material out, ransacking the recycling at the garbage transfer station at the old landfill site, and even getting onto the loaded garbage trucks and tearing at the tarps covering the garbage.
Carney’s Waste Systems is now keeping its trucks inside the fenced area at the transfer station and staff is being diligent about making sure the gates are not left open and the electric fence is turned on.
In recent weeks stakeholders in bear conservation have been looking at what might happen when the transfer station is closed permanently and moved to the new Callaghan site later this summer. The plans for that site have already been reviewed in the hope that it does not create problems for resident bears in the area.
“Pretty much all over North America, whenever a dump which has supported bears for 10 or more years has been closed, you get bears trying to find garbage in the next closest areas of human habitation…,” said Michael Allen, who has been studying black bears in and around Whistler for over 14 years.
Last month the municipality sent out a notice to residents in the Spring Creek and Function Junction areas, which are near the garbage transfer station, warning them to make sure there was nothing around their homes and businesses to attract bears.
“(The bears) seem to keep stepping it up,” said Heather Beresford Whistler’s environmental stewardship manager.
The municipality is now working with Carney’s to redesign the recycling bins, is monitoring electric fences around the garbage station more closely, and parking all garbage trucks inside the fence, she said.
Said Doyle: “You go around the landfill site or the Function (compactor and recycling) site and it is quite common to see bear scat with plastics in it or mostly consisting of plastic bags, and that kind of thing can kill a bear as well.