Zoe Kirk, a wildsafe BC community coordinator, holds a bear-resistant garbage cart in front of Naramata Elementary School. Naramata was recognized by the province as a “bear smart” community for the second time on Oct. 24. (Paul Clarke - Penticton Western News)

Naramata recognized as a ‘bear smart’ community for the second time

Naramata is one of eight communities in B.C. to receive the recognition

Just over a week after six food-conditioned bears were killed in West Kelowna, the lakeside community of Naramata is doing things differently and it’s paying off.

On Thursday morning, the town was once again recognized by the province as a “bear smart” community for its work over the past five years to stop bears from getting into people’s garbage.

“Before this program, we were destroying between six and seven bears annually in the hamlet of Naramata, and that was just unacceptable to the community,” said Zoë Kirk, a wildsafe BC community coordinator.

“What we’ve seen with the concentrated efforts of changing bylaws so people are restricted to putting their garbage out only on the morning of pick up day, unless it’s in a bear proof container and doing a lot of education, we have only destroyed two bears in the past five years.”

In addition to fewer bears being killed, she said calls about bears rummaging through people’s garbage in the community has also dropped from around 100 a year to five or six.

She credited the use of 100 bear-resistant garbage carts being used by residents in high-risk neighbourhoods, as well as education for helping to reduce the amount of human-wildlife conflict in the hamlet.

READ MORE: Six bears destroyed in three days in West Kelowna

READ MORE: Lake Country begins testing bear-resistant garbage carts

Mike Badry, a wildlife conservation officer who is responsible for the province’s wildlife-human conflict prevention strategy, said Naramata is one of eight “bear smart” communities in the province.

“A bear smart community outlines six criteria that we ask communities to attain in order to be ‘bear smart’ and they are one of eight communities that has successfully completed those six criteria,” said Badry.

Among the six criterion, he said Narmata has done a great job managing its waste to make sure garbage isn’t accessible to bears.

“In every community you look at, garbage is the number one attract that really brings bears in and causes conflict, and they’ve managed that really well,” said Badry, adding the hamlet has also implemented bylaws to ensure compliance.

He said the province receives nearly 18,000 calls about bears every year and is forced to kill between 400 and 450 bears on average because they become a public safety concern.

“When bears need to be killed due to conflict, it’s because they’ve become what we call food-conditioned, so they’ve been getting access to non-natural food sources and they’ve learned to make the connection that people equal food and that is when it becomes very dangerous,” said Badry.

Despite those startling numbers, he said more and more communities are recognizing the problem and are implementing rules to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

“Those numbers, although still way too high, are actually coming down,” said Badry. “When you look at the last 20 years, we’ve been destroying fewer bears.”

While Naramata might be the only community in the Okanagan that is considered “bear smart,” other communities are beginning to take notice.

In the fall, the community of Lake Country launched a pilot project to test 15 bear-resistant garbage carts and Summerland has also signalled its interest in the program.

Kirk said she was excited to see other communities take the issue seriously and encouraged them to get involved.

“Take simple small steps, that’s what we did in the beginning,” said Kirk. “By simply taking care of your garbage you’re going to reduce your conflict with wildlife.”


Paul Clarke
Assistant bureau chief, B.C. Interior South Division
Email me at [email protected]
Follow me on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vees have a short-handed romp over visiting West Kelowna Warriors

The Penticton Vees scored three short-handed goals to take a 1-0 series lead over West Kelowna

Ministry grants SD67 extension to balance books, submit amended budget

The board of trustees voted Monday to acquire outside help to deal with budget concerns

Summerland Orca swimmers earn provincial medals

Eight swimmers qualified for provincial championships

Businesses nominated for excellence awards

Upcoming awards ceremony has 67 nominees in 12 categories

Charges discontinued in 2017 shooting death of Penticton man

The manslaughter charge against Sylvain Demers has been stayed by Crown

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Couple in crash on Highway 1 mistake Shuswap for Lower Mainland

Chase RCMP report Mercedes Benz collides with transport truck

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Laughing ladies and country artists sell out Okanagan venue

Alan Doyle and I Am Woman, Hear Me Laff! back to back sold out

Revelstoke mother and daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Most Read