British Columbia

Okanagan group puts up trail cameras to catch illegal dumpers

A volunteer group whose mission it is to clean up the Okanagan backcountry of illegally dumped garbage is now using trail cameras to catch the perpetrators.

'Our group speaks for all the wildlife out there that’s sick of walking on broken glass, people’s garbage'

An illegal dump site on the Gillard Forest Service Road in the Central Okanagan. (Okanagan Forest Task Force)

A volunteer group is installing cameras on forest trails to catch people illegally dumping in B.C.'s Okanagan backcountry.

The Okanagan Forest Task Force has been cleaning up illegal dump sites for some time, but it's hoping to get to the root of the problem by recording the dumpers in action and giving the evidence to the authorities.

Kane Blake, head of the task force, says the motion sensor cameras are being placed in "hot spots" where people constantly dump their garbage — like forest service roads on Crown land, for example.

"As soon as they pick up motion, we can either have them set to take photos or videos and a few of our cameras will actually even send the footage right to our cell phones or email," he said.

Blake said he's already caught nine to ten people.

Need clear evidence to report to authorities

People caught illegally dumping can be fined or charged criminally. But in order to make a complaint to the authorities, Blake says, you need clear evidence.

"You need to be able to see somebody dump. You have to be able to see their face, identify them, and the vehicle plate or something like that," he said.

This picture of Dilworth Park, surrounding Dilworth Mountain in Kelowna, was on the Okanagan Forest Task Force Facebook page. (Kristopher Vincent/OFTF/Facebook)

Cynthia Coates, a waste reduction facilitator with the Regional District of Central Okanagan, says her department had been "clamouring for a group like them for some time."

Gathering enough evidence to nab perpetrators is a challenge, Coates says, and her own department would be challenged to find enough financial resources and staff to operate their own surveillance camera system.

She says her district does not have jurisdiction over Crown land where the bulk of illegal dumping takes place (the province does), but her department still averages about 40 to 50 calls a year about illegal dumpers.

She says the Okanagan Forest Task Force is providing a good service.

"They're really raising a lot of awareness to the issue of illegal dumping and they act as our eyes out there. Without them, we wouldn't know what's going on," she said.

A request to speak to the province's conservation office on this issue was declined because of the election campaign.

Mixed reaction from community

Not everyone is thrilled by the idea of cameras in the bush — particularly some community members concerned about privacy.

"Some people love the idea and hope we catch everybody and then there's the other side. They think that we have rights. They don't want to be on camera. They don't want us putting cameras in the bush..." Blake said.

"I myself am a huge animal lover. If my dog gets hurt, I'm their voice," he said. "Our group speaks for all the wildlife out there that's sick of walking on broken glass, people's garbage."

With files from Daybreak South