Ucluelet locals are urged to keep their attractants secured to keep local wildlife wild.

Behest of the West: Let’s graduate from education

It's time for fines to start flying because our bears can’t keep dying.

The parking is gone. The lineups are everywhere.

Quick trips to the grocery store are in hibernation and won’t wake up for another two months.

Our Coast is booming this season and, given the consistency of our surroundings, the good times will continue. Whether the sun’s shining or lightning’s crashing down, the beauty of this place abounds.

The summer’s success has been exhausting for us though and our burning out minds are convincing us to cut corners. We’re shirking the responsibilities we signed onto when we chose to live in this paradise.

One of the underrated challenges of living on this Coast is continuing to oblige our obligations while surrounded by vacationers who’ve left their cares at home.

This is their leisure time, not ours, but it’s hard to avoid being seduced into vacational bliss by osmosis.

Eventually they make their way home. Our home is here. We live with the consequence of every action we take in this place. It needs our care as much as it needs their patronage

Our paradise relies on its locals to keep it pristine but we’re not doing our part. We’re better than we’re being. We care more than we’re caring. We need to pull ourselves together.

It’s nice to think of ourselves as impeccable stewards and point our fingers at tourists whenever evidence of our irresponsibility pops up. We allow ourselves to bask in a fantasy land where we know what’s up and protect the beauty around us. And yet, we consistently kill bears because we can’t be bothered to keep our garbage secured.

Conservation Officer Steve Ackles was in Ucluelet on July 15. He brought a bear trap with him.

He was here to catch and kill a food-conditioned bear that had become addicted to human garbage and had wandered into a home in Millstream looking to score some. Entering a home carries a death sentence for bears, leaving our garbage out currently carries nothing more than a lecture.

Ackles hates killing bears but we don’t seem to care because we make him do it every year. We, not our guests, repeatedly make him kill our bears.

We know the consequences of leaving attractants out.

The educational opportunities on this Coast are as abundant as the wildlife we’re surrounded by. Whether you’ve lived here for five years or five minutes, you’ve had access to all the knowledge you need to keep our wildlife safe.

Tourists can plead ignorance, we absolutely cannot.

We rabble-rouse, harrumph and seethe when we see tourists slip up but a bear fed by a tourist is no more dead than a bear fed by our garbage. Those tourists have never seen a bear. We see bears killed in our natural playground every year.

By repeatedly leaving our garbage out despite having front row seats to the effects of our negligence, we are proving beyond a reasonable doubt that we cannot be trusted to live amongst the wildlife we tout to tourists when we tell them about our world-renowned wilderness.

If our knowledge isn’t enough and our education isn’t cutting it, then it’s time for financial repercussions to be reaped.

It is illegal to be too lazy to handle your trash. B.C.’s Wildlife Act isn’t vague on the subject.

“A person must not leave or place an attractant in, on or about any land or premises where there are or where there are likely to be people, in a manner in which the attractant could: attract dangerous wildlife to the land or premises, and be accessible to dangerous wildlife.”

That law absolutely applies to us. Everywhere you look is accessible to wildlife and summertime on the West Coast means there’s people everywhere.

Keep your garbage inside until the morning of pickup. Keep your barbecues clean. Keep your pet food inside. Put the bird feeders away. Secure your chickens.

If we can’t go through those simple motions then it’s time for fines to start flying because our bears can’t keep dying.

 

Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.