Council nixes bear deal with MNR

Council agreed Monday night to return a nuisance bear removal agreement to the Ministry of Natural Resources unsigned after citing numerous problems with a document presented to the town last month.
“It was pretty one-sided,” Administration and Finance manager Darryl Allan said Tuesday.
“The proposal agreement places additional responsibility on the town and seems to absolve the province of any responsibility and liability,” he added.
“It also appears that the most recent agreement lapsed on March 31, 2001.”
Anomalies between this new document and the previous agreement include:
•the current one refers to the town as the “agent,” suggesting the document was meant to form part of an agreement with a private contractor;
•that the town require a general public liability insurance policy in the amount of $2 million;
•that the town provide to the MNR certain biological information on the bears trapped or killed. (“Town staff are not wildlife biologists and do not have specific training to provide such data,” noted a report from Planing and Development executive committee); and
•specific locations where the trapped bears may be relocated (one of the locations was in the vicinity of the old Junior Ranger camp on Weller Lake Road).
The Planning and Development executive committee also noted there seems no need for such an agreement when communities across the region widely vary on their nuisance bear removal policies.
But not agreeing with the MNR document doesn’t mean much as far as service residents can continue to expect from the town’s bylaw department, said Allan.
“For the protection of our citizens, the bylaw enforcement officers will be continuing to handle bear problems as they have in the past,” he noted. “This is, for the most part, in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of the agreement.
“We’re going to continue to carry on in a humane manner,” added Allan. “While we’re not entering into a legal agreement, we’ll protect the public. That is, unless the bears try to sue us.”
Allan noted the town looks forward to co-operating with the MNR on this issue.
Currently, the town most frequently uses live traps to catch nuisance bears and only rarely resort to tranquilizers—a practice which some town staff are qualified to perform, said Allan.
The bears then are relocated to an area where they’re unlikely to bother people.
“And there is the odd incident where we have an injured bear and, after the situation is assessed, we may have to put it down,” Allan remarked.
Allan said he didn’t know if there would be any penalties for the town’s non-compliance with the MNR’s agreement. No ministry reps could be reached for comment by press time.