Order to remove mountain ash berries raises ire of resident 

Ralph Forsyth questions broader policy around bear attractants

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Ralph Forsyth has been living at 19 Mile Creek for more than a decade but he, and the other residents there, didn't plant the mountain ash trees surrounding his housing complex.

Yet the residents have had to shell out the money to have some of them cut down and others limbed as ordered by local conservation officers in an effort to protect the local bears.

Forsyth is questioning why some properties are singled out over others and sees it as a broader policy issue that needs to be addressed. "I would say 90 per cent of the properties in Whistler have a bear attractant problem," he said. "It just seems so unjust to me that 19 Mile was singled out. Why are taxpayers, who didn't plant the trees, having to pay to cut them down?"

Inspector Chris Doyle, of the Conservation Officer Service for the South Coast Region, explained that the 19 Mile complex wasn't singled out and that the order, and the threat of the $575 fine, was to either contain or remove the attractant, namely the mountain ash berries, and not to cut down the trees directly. Three other properties in Whistler were issued orders to remove mountain ash berries this year.

"The order was issued because the attractant may bring bears into immediately adjacent residences which is a public safety issue," said Doyle. "We have dealt with a lot of bear conflict around that area, 19 Mile Creek, over the last few years."

When Forsyth asked for a record of those conflicts in the area he was told he would need to file a Freedom of Information request because it was time consuming to search databases and paper records.

A bear was destroyed in August in the area after it attempted to break into a home through a screen door. But that, said Doyle, did not prompt the order to remove the attractant.

"The DWPO was issued because the Conservation Officer identified the (Mountain) Ash trees as an attractant to bears and the Wildlife Act requires people to manage their attractants," he said. "(Mountain) Ash trees in Whistler are particularly attractive to bear in the fall when bears are trying to put on extra calories, just prior to hibernation."

Forsyth is clear that he doesn't want to see bears destroyed, but he questions the policy. "I have yet to see a bear eat a mountain ash berry," he said emphatically.

The developer likely planted the mountain ash at 19 Mile when the complex was built in 2000. But Forsyth, a former councillor who sat on the board of the athletes' village development, said the trees were planted there too in recent years.

Though Whistler's garbage disposal and wildlife attractants bylaw doesn't specifically address mountain ash, bylaw officers are in contact with properties throughout the year regarding attractant management issues.

The municipal communications department emailed this statement to

Pique: "Trees bearing fruit and nuts are a huge issue for the COS when trying to address bear conflicts. The COS would rather be proactive than wait for conflicts to occur that may result in the unnecessary death of a bear or a person being injured by a bear."

Over the past few years, conservation officers have been working to remove mountain ash trees in the village because of the conflicts with bears around hotels.

This year the COS has been working with properties to manage the mountain ash and recommendations include removing the fruit, pruning the tree or removing the tree.

Efforts are made to alert a property to the situation and to work together to find solutions before issuing a ticket or Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order.

In the end, seven of the roughly 20 trees were removed at 19 Mile and others were limbed. It is not clear why that compromise was reached and Forsyth, who is not on the strata, could not say how much it cost.

Doyle said: "Ultimately it's obviously an issue but all we're trying to do is protect people from dangerous wildlife and prevent bears from being shot."

The Get Bear Smart Society has been working with 19 Mile residents for three years on the issue.


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