Whistler hikes fines to stop 'garbage bears'

Residents of Whistler, B.C., have one more good reason to make sure bears don't ransack their trash bins or invade their properties looking for food.

Residents of Whistler, B.C., have one more good reason to make sure bears don't ransack their trash bins or invade their properties looking for food.

Earlier this week, the local council approved a new $500 minimum fine for people who continually attract the animals with food and garbage to their properties.

Mayor Ken Melamed said the measure was brought in because conservation officers have already been forced to kill more than 15 bears this year because of interactions with humans.

"As we know, a garbage bear becomes a dead bear very quickly," said Melamed, who noted that in other years dozens have been killed.

And it is not just garbage bins that are a concern, said the mayor.

"It's unfortunate that it's come to this, but if you're baking a cake and you want to cool it down, you don't leave it out on your side deck," he added.

The fines will escalate to a maximum of $10,000 for repeat offenders. Previous Whistler bylaws required all garbage to be stored in wildlife-resistant containers, with a maximum fine of $2,000 for violations.

Bear greets IOC delegates

"Our intention is to be firm, but to really send a clear message to those people who do not comply and seem not to get the message," said Melamed.

The province must now sign off on the new bylaw under the Environment Ministry's Bear Smart program for it to become law, a process Melamed said he hopes will happen by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, delegates from the International Olympic Committee who were in Whistler on Wednesday to inspect the facilities got a first-hand look at the types of wildlife encounters Whistler is trying to curb.

A medium-sized black bear climbed up on the sliding track as athletes whizzed by on sleds, while the IOC members looked on about 100 metres away.