While the City of Whitehorse has bear-proof garbage bins, there is nothing forcing residents to use them, conservation officer Aaron Koss-Young says. (File/Yukon government)

Bear-proofing laws exist but are limited, Yukon conservation officer says

‘We want to focus on getting people’s co-operation through education’

When it comes to Yukoners who don’t properly store or dispose of bear attractants, conservation officers (COs) prefer education over punishment, said a human-wildlife conflict prevention CO, but the law does give them some power to crack down on violators.

However, recourse can be limited.

“Obviously, we want to focus on more of a progressive approach and getting people’s co-operation through education … (but) conservation officers are not adverse to charging someone in the situation where we’ve made that front-end approach to the person … and they’ve just simply refused to do it,” CO Aaron Koss-Young told the News.

The reminder comes during a season when the territory is set to meet the record for the most bears killed in a year (61). As of last week, 55 bears had been killed across the Yukon this year.

The overwhelming majority of human-bear interactions that end with a bear being killed are the result of someone leaving an attractant around, Koss-Young previously said, whether it be a chicken coop that’s not properly fenced in or hunting scraps carelessly tossed aside. Technically, those are punishable offences under the Yukon Wildlife Act.

A CO can order someone found in violation of that section to fix the situation within a set time. If they don’t, first-time offenders can face a fine of up to $50,000, a year in jail, or both, but in reality, Koss-Young said, “you’re not going to see penalties of that nature.”

“What we’d be seeking is a penalty that represents how much it would have cost to (fix the situation)…. The person would be required to install an electric fence or do something to mitigate this from ever happening again rather than asking for a fine,” he said.

By then, Koss-Young noted, it’s usually too late for the bear involved, but the hope is that the punishment will lead the offender to follow bear-safe practices in the future. It’s “rare” for anyone to be charged or fined after a bear has to be killed, he added.

“(If there) are situations where the person has known the bear has been doing this for a number of days or weeks or months and the person hasn’t taken any measures to prevent this from happening, hasn’t contacted conservation officers … absolutely, we would consider possibly prosecuting because that person just hasn’t done anything to help the situation or work with conservation officers at all to prevent these situations from occurring,” he said.

Several charges have been laid under the Wildlife Act this year, according to Environment Yukon, but exact numbers were not immediately available.

Where COs don’t have any power, though, is creating or enforcing any city or community-specific bylaws. For example, even though the City of Whitehorse has bear-proof garbage bins, there’s nothing that says residents actually have to keep the latch closed or even use them, Koss-Young said.

“It’s an approved receptacle for the disposal of garbage or compost … and we don’t have any ability to order anybody to do anything with that,” he said.

The city was presented with a bear hazard assessment report in the last year or two which included research on bear-proof bin use as well as recommendations on bylaw implementation and enforcement, Koss-Young said, but “has done nothing as far as following up with any of those recommendations.”

“We are trying to get back down to the table with the City of Whitehorse and other partners to try and get these ideas moving forward,” he said.

Whitehorse does have a waste management bylaw which prohibits anyone from “(setting) out waste in any manner or condition that harbours or attracts wildlife,” but bylaw services supervisor Tom Wyers said in his two years with the department, he’s never seen a fine or charge issued under it. Dawson City has similar bylaws, also under which no one’s ever been charged.

“We don’t get an overabundance of calls about that,” Wyers said, adding he was aware of the bear hazard report but didn’t know anything in regards to recommended bylaw changes, nor anything about other bylaws that might relate to bear attractants.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

bearsEnvironment YukonWildlife

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (yfned.ca)
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read