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Bylaws and Ordinances

Effective Bear Smart Bylaws and Ordinances

Bylaws or ordinances are a necessary part of any successful human-bear conflict management plan. Education and voluntary compliance are rarely enough to encourage everyone in a community to effectively manage potential bear attractants. And it just takes one bird feeder or poorly stored bag of dog food to sentence an unassuming bear to an early death.

Well-enforced bylaws provide the necessary stick to education’s carrot. Bear Smart bylaws and ordinances prohibit the supply of unnatural foods to bears because of intent, neglect or irresponsible management of attractants. Enforcement, with escalating penalties, also needs to be implemented to ensure compliance.

Bylaws and ordinances can be tailored to address each community’s particular needs, which will differ from community to community. Bylaws and ordinances can be general with blanket statements such as these:

  • a prohibition on feeding bears or other wildlife, whether intentional or unintentional, by allowing access to attractants;
  • mandatory bear-proofing of solid waste and/or the solid waste system.

Or the can be more specific to address particularly problematic issues such as these:

  • Garbage (from temporary receptacles) at special community events (festivals, ball tournaments, concerts, etc.) must be removed at the end of each day’s activities.
  • No person shall fail to take remedial action to avoid contact or conflict with wildlife after being advised by the bylaw enforcement officer that such action is necessary. Remedial action may include, but is not limited to securing, in a wildlife-resistant enclosure, all garbage containers, and the removal of cooking grills or barbecues, pet food, bird feeders or any other attractants.
  • Bird feeders containing seed, nuts, suet or hummingbird nectar may be allowed with certain restrictions during the non-denning period. Feeders must be suspended from a cable or other device so that they are inaccessible to bears. The area below the feeder should be kept free of accumulations of seed.
  • Barbecues must be kept clean and any residual attractant must be burnt off the grill. Grease cans must be stored indoors where they are inaccessible to wildlife.
  • Include community composting requirements in high-risk areas of the community or prohibit composting of organic kitchen refuse.
  • Ensure that chickens, livestock or beehives are inaccessible to animals by use of properly maintained electrified fencing.

The WildSafeBC Program has compiled a “how-to” list for organizing a bylaw committee in your community, drafting a bylaw, and presenting a draft bylaw to Council. Click here to review the list.

For some examples of Bear Smart bylaws, see our sample model ordinance.

Enforcement and Penalties

Enforcing bylaws and ordinances is essential if they are to be effective. Enforcement must be the responsibility of a law enforcement agency, such as a by-law enforcement officer, a provincial/state Wildlife Agency, or police.

A significant monetary penalty must be considered, with stiffer penalties and proceedings for multiple offences. Perhaps a written warning might be followed by a minimum fine on the first offence and a doubling of fines on subsequent offences. The penalties in some jurisdictions range from $1000 to $50,000. Alternatively, people who violate bylaws or ordinances could do community service work on a human-bear conflict issue in the municipality, such as garbage clean-up in a problem area or educational outreach.

Money generated from bylaw/ordinance enforcement should go towards a special fund set aside to address human-bear conflicts, such as the purchase of additional bear-proof waste containers or the funding of education.

Part of a Larger Package

Passing and enforcing laws is only a small part of an effective regulatory system. It is also important to help people understand what the rules are, why they exist, and how they can easily and cost-effectively be obeyed. Education and financial assistance can be an important part of ensuring residents and visitors willingly participate in bear-proofing your community.

A public awareness campaign should ensure that residents are aware of any new bylaws or ordinances; why they have been implemented (i.e. to prevent bears from accessing human food/waste); and what the consequences of contravening the new rules are.

Financial assistance can help increase the level of compliance. For example, rebate programs for bear-proof garbage and storage bins can make it less expensive (and therefore easier) for residents to securely store garbage, pet food and other attractants.

These programs can be initiated by local governments or non-profits and can also help generate revenue. For instance, an Adopt-a-Bin Program that allows donors to sponsor the purchase of a bear-proof garbage container (which can range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars) in exchange for acknowledgement of their support. A sign can be placed on the adopted bin, acknowledging the generous support of the donor.

Provincial or State Laws

Some provinces and states have laws that may compliment or enhance a community’s bylaws or ordinances. In the Province of British Columbia, for instance, it is an offence for people to feed dangerous wildlife (i.e. bears, cougars, coyotes, and wolves) or disobey orders to remove and clean up food, food waste, or other substances that can attract dangerous wildlife to their premises. Conservation officers may issue a written dangerous wildlife protection order, which requires “the removal or containment of compost, food, food waste or domestic garbage.” If people fail to comply with the order, they could face a penalty of up to $50,000 and/or six months in jail.

See B.C.’s Wildlife Act Sections 33.1, 88.1, 84, 84.1 for more information.

In the State of New Jersey, intentional feeding or otherwise attracting black bears is prohibited. “No person shall feed, give, place, expose, deposit, distribute or scatter any edible material or attractant with the intention of feeding, attracting or enticing black bears; or store pet food, garbage or other bear attractants in a manner that will result in bear feedings when black bears are known to frequent the area.” Some activities are excluded; for instance, baiting deer for hunting purposes. The penalty? $1,000 for each offense. Find more information in this.