Editorial: What a week

Trent Ernst, Editor


I will warn you right up front (well, here on page 4, which is where the editorial lives), that there’s probably something missing from the news.

What it is, I can’t tell you, but I know that there are things that happened this week—important things, things that, any other week would have made it into the paper—that have fallen by the wayside.

Why? Because there are just so many things that are happening in town, and I am limited by time and space.

While I know that could just be a statement on the human condition in general, it is equally true here at the paper. I’ve only got 16 pages to play with, half of which are ads. You take a few pictures, write a few stories, and boom! Suddenly you have no space left, and something gets left out.

Some of it may show up next week, as it’s a tad more timeless, or because next week we won’t have terror bears and mine closures and Geoparks and I’ll be scrabbling for content.

And yes, I do mean scrabbling and not scrambling. To scrabble is not merely to play one of the most popular board games in the world, it means to grope about to find something. (In an ironic linguistic twist, scrabbling also means to scramble or crawl quickly. Language, you know?)

While the mine closures held everyone’s attention for a few hours, people got distracted by a bear wandering around eating people’s garbage. Once people found out that there was a bear wandering about eating garbage, they rushed out to put their garbage in their garbage can, and then panicked when the bear came and ate their garbage too.

While some of you will celebrate the fact that the bear has been captured and killed, that is the environmental equivalent of slut shaming, blaming the victim for what is, ultimately, our fault.

Yes, the bear had become habituated to human food. It wasn’t scared of humans anymore. But that’s not the bear’s fault.

People. We put bear food outside our house in what amounts to a glorified plastic bag (most garbage cans protect their contents with little more than a millimetre of plastic) and then we are amazed at how a 400 lb creature with claws and teeth can get into it.

Bears, when left to their own devices, will avoid people. But we assume because we don’t want our refuse, it has no value. But ask any raven or raccoon or bear about the nutrient value that we cast off and they’ll tell you that what we call garbage is good food. And if we’re just going to set it in their path…well.

Every year, we publish a list of ways to avoid things like this happening, and every year, things like this happen. Sometimes I wonder if people out there are even listening to me.

So, let me say it again, and maybe this time it will get through: hungry bears and human garbage don’t mix, and a bear that has learned to associate humans with food is most likely going to be destroyed.

While this is bad for the bear, it is not always a piece of cake for the person, who can be fined under the Wildlife Act. Conservation Officers can issue fines of up to $230 to residents who do not secure attractants.

Garbage is the biggest attractant in Tumbler Ridge. Most bears who have had to be destroyed in town have been attracted by garbage. Store garbage in a secure building until collection day or consider purchasing a bear-resistant household container. Do not leave garbage in the back of a truck, even if it has a canopy. And if you cannot store garbage securely, freeze smelly items and add to the bin only on the morning of collection.

Last year, 370 black bears were destroyed. That’s down from the thousand bears a year two decades ago, but the reason that has happened is that communities around this province are realizing that, hey, maybe we shouldn’t be leaving bear food laying about.

This bear has been captured and killed. Yay, us. But that’s only treating the symptom, because if we keep leaving bear food laying about, other bears will come. So what are we going to do? As people? As a community? Are we going to keep blaming (and killing) the victims of our ignorance and actions, or are we going to change our actions and our attitudes? Yes, it is inconvenient to have to keep our garbage in our sheds or (gasp) in our houses, but the cost of convenience is paid in the blood of bears.

I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I live here is because of all the nature that surrounds us. But if we are going to destroy that nature because we can’t be bothered to deal with our garbage properly, we are lessened as a community.