LIttle help for towns struggling with wildlife

Province has no funds for local conservation office

Doug Pateman tells a compelling story that he says illustrates the need in Princeton for a conservation office.

Two weeks ago the municipal councillor placed several calls to Conservation Office Services to report a mother bear and cub sitting in a tree in his backyard. During one of those phone calls, while looking out his front window, he saw a young girl chasing a third bear down the street.

“I ran outside and ran between the bear and the little girl and the bear freaked out of course,” said Pateman.

“I called the conservation office back immediately and said ‘this is what’s happened and it’s time to send someone out.’”

The bear was later shot by an off duty RCMP officer, and it was days before Pateman received a follow up call from the ministry of the environment.

“It’s a perfect example of what’s going on in Princeton and why we want a conservation office brought back in our community. You can’t get any more real than that.”

Pateman said he was told that while there were bears both behind and in front of his house the ministry “had 22 other calls throughout the province and what little resources we have are stretched thin.”

Last week Princeton presented a resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities calling for the restoration of the town’s conservation office, which was shuttered two years ago as a cost reduction measure.

While the assembly supported the resolution, and the province expressed sympathy, Minister of the Environment Mary Polak denied the request.

“She did agree that yes there is a need and they could obviously see the need in Princeton, but they aren’t prepared at this time for any increased funding or presence,” said Pateman.

On a related issue the province announced $100,000 in new funding for municipalities struggling with the problems created by urban deer.

Pateman, a member of the town’s urban deer management committee, admitted the promise amounts to “a drop in the bucket” but added he is “guardedly optimistic” about the future.

Princeton is one of fourteen municipalities that have been meeting since last year to present a united front on the urban deer issue.

“We’ve got our foot in the door now. We’ve got the province willing to commit $100,000 this year and if we are diligent and continue to work together we’ll have a stronger voice and hopefully we will be able to work to increase that funding and increase our presence with the ministry.”

Through local efforts including education about feeding deer, fencing the town’s landfill and installing a cattle guard at its entrance, Pateman said Princeton is “borderline on having it manageable….I’m happy to say we’ve dropped the numbers.”

However the town will continue to require provincial support.

“The province is very well aware that everyone in rural BC is at their wits’ end and they want the province to step in and help.”