Town opts to pursue annual nuisance bear deal with MNR

Heather Latter

The Town of Fort Frances will pursue an annual agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources to undertake nuisance bear management within town limits in order to protect the health and safety of all residents.
At its regular meeting Monday night, council approved the report by Planning and Development Superintendent Rick Hallam, which indicated the MNR wishes to continue its annual agreement with the town although the annual funding component was being removed and no longer available.
As such, the town will advise the MNR that it intends to withhold funds submitted to the ministry by the town each year under the Beach Management Agreement in order to offset the cost of undertaking nuisance bear management.
MNR deputy minister David O’Toole recently sent a letter to the town explaining that as part of its Transformation Plan announced in the 2012 Ontario budget, changes will be made to the “Bear Wise” program.
“‘Bear Wise’ has set a solid foundation, helping municipalities and the public to reduce preventable human-bear encounters,” O’Toole wrote.
“Today, eight years into the program, awareness of ‘Bear Wise’ is high and many municipalities have good, robust bear strategies in place.
“As a result of the program, the public is better educated about what to do when they encounter a bear,” he noted.
“In this regard, ‘Bear Wise’ has achieved its main goals, and the time is right to transition from an active management model to one that places a greater emphasis on personal responsibility,” O’Toole continued.
While the ministry will continue to offer support to local police and municipalities, it no longer will provide individual site visits to help landowners who are having site-specific conflicts with bears.
The MNR also will no longer trap and relocate problem bears.
Hallam said the MNR’s new approach will be that all citizens must first call the “Bear Wise” hotline, at which time an assessment will be made by the responder, who then will advise the caller to call the OPP or take other evasive measures.
The “Bear Wise” number is 1-866-514-2327.
Hallam also noted the town cannot proceed to undertake to respond to nuisance bears unless their agents are properly-trained and certified in live trap and transport, as well as chemical immobilization.
And they must re-certify every few years.
“At this time, the town’s employees so certified are only so certified in chemical immobilization until September, 2013, and in live trap and transport until June, 2014,” noted Hallam.
He said re-certification is mandated by the MNR, and that the ministry has advised that from now on, the agents must finance the travel and accommodation component of any re-certification courses.
The Planning and Development executive committee (PDEC) also was advised that the use, care, and control of controlled substances by town staff, in this case Ketamine, is regulated by Health Canada under the authority and direction of the MNR.
“PDEC are of the opinion that the austerity measures taken by the MNR at this time are no less than a continuation of downloading of responsibilities by the province to municipalities,” Hallam stressed.
However, PDEC—feeling the health and safety of residents is of paramount concern—recommended the town continue to respond, and to pursue the agreement with the MNR until such time as the certification of staff has expired.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, council:
•received a petition from Melvin Haukaas regarding curb styles on the 300 block of Third Street East;

•denied a request to plant trees on the town right-of-way on Crowe Avenue;
•allowed the Sister Kennedy Centre board of management to initiate the application process with the New Horizons for Seniors program to get a grant for a van;
•agreed to provide a donation of $2,000 to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship but denied a request for a long-term financial agreement, instead insisting that financial requests be made on a year-by-year basis;
•approved revised dress code, health and safety, workplace harassment, and violence policies;
•heard an update on capital projects from Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown;
•agreed to proclaim Nov. 4-12 as “English as a Second Language Week” in the Town of Fort Frances;
•passed a bylaw to establish a percentage by which tax decreases are limited in 2012 to properties in the commercial, industrial, and multi-residential property classes; and
•passed a bylaw to authorize the levying and collection in 2012 of a special charge of taxes upon the Business Improvement Area (BIA).