Bears that wander into town limits looking for a bite to eat may soon have to contend with hunters able to harvest them for meat and bones, if a new bylaw before town council passes.
A bylaw to amend the firearms act was moved to second reading on Feb. 9 at town council’s regular meeting. If passed, the bylaw would allow the Wildlife Management Advisory Council, Inuvialuit Game Council and Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board to designate a person to shoot and harvest bears that wander into town and pose a threat to the public.
“This will allow them to harvest bears that have become accustomed to freely accessing the (landfill) and who will likely pose a threat to the public once access is restricted with the fencing project,” said Mayor Clarence Wood. “The amendment has also received the support from GNWT Environment and Natural Resources administration and protective services.”
All three groups requested the change in a letter sent to the town.
Problem bears that enter town can already legally be destroyed, the biggest change is this would allow the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in harvesters to use the hides and meat without ENR approval.
Driving the push for the change is a plan to install an electric fence around the Inuvik landfill by this spring to deter bears from scavenging for food in the landfill. The fence, which is being funded by a $600,000 grant from the federal government while the town covers $200,000, is set to come up in before the end of March.
While still serving as a town councillor, bear biologist Steve Baryluk noted the fence would deter bears from both the landfill and the town in the long-run. The experience of other Northern communities, particularly in Yukon, where electric fences were erected, suggests the bears will likely explore the option of scavenging food out of the town first, he noted.
“This is going to be a pretty significant item for the next council when this fence does get installed,” he said at the time. “There are still a fairly large number of bears accessing the landfill, including mothers with cubs. So they are being trained as that as their main food source.
“When this fence goes up, it has the potential to displace quite a large number of grizzly bears potentially into the community. Luckily for the town, we have been doing a number of things like putting in the bear-proof bins around town ahead of this happening so it reduces the food reward that the bears may experience by coming into town, which will reduce the incentive for them to come in. But there is a potential for at least a year, maybe even two, where a large number of bears may be coming into the community — which would be a potentially large safety concern.”
If the amendment passes, the letter notes hunters would begin harvesting the bears in April.