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Time to bear down on dump difficulty

Editorial Comment - Deh Cho Drum

The rules for dealing with wildlife are very simple, and quite likely many residents in and around Fort Simpson know them: keep your distance, carry protection and do not feed the bears.

Unfortunately, as with most municipalities, a certain amount of garbage builds up - in ditches, on roads and, of course, in the municipal landfill.

On June 17 at 4:30 p.m., six black bears were frolicking in the garbage at the Fort Simpson dump, foraging for food. Other bears have been seen around the village, in the campground and on the hill.

While that is part of living in the North, it is important not to use that as an excuse to ignore safety procedures.

As for people who work in the field, most of them know to carry protection with them - bear bangers, bear spray or firearms.

These safety procedures are often common sense because many of us have heard of or known someone who has had a scary - or deadly - encounter with a bear.

On July 20, Fort Simpson finally made the decision to issue its landfill operator bear deterrents. The landfill operator will now have access to bear bangers and spray.

That means if the operator is in a dangerous situation, or sees a landfill user in a bad situation, they can do something about it. Prior to this, there was no protection at the landfill.

It is perplexing that safety protocols were not in place prior to this summer.

Mayor Sean Whelly has said he cannot recall ever having an incident at the landfill involving bears and staff or a member of the public.

In fact, the landfill operator seems to be at ease with the wildlife situation as well.

However, after years of operating, it is luck that has so far prevented incidents.

Regardless of whether an attack has occurred in the past, simple common sense should dictate that when working around potentially dangerous wild animals, you should probably take measures against being mauled.

However, there is still a good portion of the village who put themselves at risk every time they go to drop off their garbage. The same goes for contractors who may have large loads to haul and take longer to unload.

It is a boon that the landfill operator can now come to people's aid if need be, but a more permanent solution needs to be considered.

In August 2011, two such bears in Fort Simpson had to be destroyed.

There is no way to keep bears out of an area entirely - not even with fences and gates.

However, both of those things can mitigate the risk.

It helps, too, that the village is intending - and is required - to put up fencing systems around the landfill. With luck, that fence will be built before something serious happens.

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