By Steve Hubrecht
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The district of Invermere and the local Columbia Valley WildSafe BC representative are reminding local residents that the new garbage bins — introduced a few weeks ago as part of a new automated garbage collection system — are not bear-proof, and that homeowners must keep their trash inside their homes until the morning of garbage pick-up, just as they did with the old bins.

“The new bins are much more sturdy and an improvement compared to the variety of containers used previously. It is important to note that these containers are not bear-proof or bear-resistant,” wrote WildSafe BC Columbia Valley community coordinator Corinna Strauss in a recent post. “For a bin to be deemed bear-resistant, it undergoes a test in which a grizzly or black bear cannot access the bin for at minimum an hour. Since bears are incredibly smart, adaptive, and powerful animals, it is rare to find any fully bear-proof container.”

The post stems from recent occurrences of bears coming into Invermere, looking for snacks.

“There are several black bears wandering into town right now, and there have been four different incidents of bears breaking into bins,” Strauss told the Pioneer, adding that these have not been confined to any one particular neighbourhood, but have been scattered evenly throughout the town.

Strauss cautioned that nobody is 100 per cent sure, but the bin break-ins are likely the work of one or two bears, rather than four separate bears. She advised residents to keep their bins inside — either their homes, or inside a garage or shed — even when they are empty, if at all possible. Strauss estimated that probably 80 per cent of Invermere residents are keeping their bins outside at the moment.

Invermere mayor Al Miller explained to the Pioneer that getting completely bear-proof bins for each home in Invermere would be tremendously costly and would necessarily mean that the bins would be quite heavy.

“The only thing that you can get that is totally bear-proof is the heavy, heavy steel fabricated containers with the hidden latches inside, the kind we have downtown,” said Miller. “These are very, very, very expensive. I imagine most residents would be pretty unhappy at paying the bills involved in getting those. And they would not be easily transportable, not by any stretch.”

The new bins are definitely more sturdy than the old ones, Miller pointed out.

“What we’ve got is a container that is what you can call animal resistant. It will keep dogs and deers out, which is an improvement from the old residential garbage bins,” he said. “But although the new bins may be a bit more complicated than the old ones for a bear to get into, they are certainly not bear-proof.”

Residents can bring any excess waste to the Invermere transfer station in Athalmer or at the Columbia Valley landfill on the Windermere Loop Road.