After a mother bear and several of her cubs were sighted rummaging through the bins at the Invermere transfer station on Monday (September 10) District of Invermere (DOI) council decided in a unanimous vote on Tuesday (September 11) to close the transfer station, effective immediately, until October 31, 2012.
“What really pushed it to the top was the bear issue,” DOI mayor Gerry Taft told The Valley Echo on September 13. “We have concerns about how (the transfer station) is being used — the amount of garbage, and what’s being dumped there.”
The bins at the transfer station have been removed and the gates are locked with signage informing residents that the station will be closed until October 31 due to bear activity and misuse. Residents are instead urged to use the Windermere landfill site, located at 1875 Windermere Loop Road, which has an electrified barrier to keep bears out. Regular curbside garbage pickup in Invermere will continue as normal.
“This time of year, there are a number of bears around the community right now, and they’re trying to eat as much as they can before they hibernate,” Taft said. “Right now is a pretty crucial time… it’s the most common time of year for human and bear conflict.”
The move to close the transfer station comes after a number of recent bear sightings in the area of downtown Invermere, including reports of bears on 12th Avenue behind Sobeys. Councillor Justin Atterbury also recounted how he had nearly walked straight into a bear when going to his truck several nights before. Community Bear Aware community co-ordinator Crystal Leonard confirmed there is currently a significantly larger number of reported bear sightings as compared to last year, and said she was glad council had reached a decision to close the transfer station so quickly.
“I think it’s great,” Leonard said. “As soon as they found out about the bears, the next day they took action. They were really quick to make a solution.”
Concerns were raised by Councillor Greg Anderson about the suddenness of such a move, however DOI chief administrative officer Chris Prosser said letters were ready to be delivered to every mailbox in Invermere. One of the contributing factors to how quickly council took action is that none of the bins in the transfer station are bear-resistant. Most are simply the common plastic variant, and many of them are missing lids as well.
“This will give us a good opportunity to monitor the reaction, and see how people deal with it,” Taft said. “In the long-term… if we are going to manage our garbage properly I think were going to have to work with our neighbours and the regional district and try and make sure that it’s shared within the Columbia Valley as far as the costs and operations.”
In a related incident, Columbia Valley RCMP were forced to put down an approximately 300 pound black bear after it was discovered rummaging through garbage at a private residence on 13th Avenue in Invermere on September 13. According to community bear aware co-ordinator Crystal Leonard, residents mentioned that the bear got garbage out of the back of their pickup truck and took it to a nearby bush to consume. When RCMP approached the bear, the bear didn’t scare off, and for the public safety the bear was shot.
“I want to make clear that this is not the RCMP nor the Conservation Officer’s fault, it is the fault of residents welcoming a bear into the community by letting it eat our garbage, and fruit trees,” Leonard wrote via email. “The bear knows no different, when they come into the community, find garbage and don’t feel threatened they are bound to stay and get comfortable. Relocation would not work in this situation; bears travel far distances and will end up coming back to the same community or find another community.”