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City looks to expand electric fences to keep bears away

The City of Powell River wants to hear from you about electric fences.

A public hearing is set for August 15th on a proposed bylaw that will allow the use of electric fences city-wide.

The intent of the bylaw is to reduce human-wildlife interactions and to specifically discourage the presence of bears.

Corporate officer Chris Jackson said electric fences are only permitted in agricultural zones.

This bylaw would cast a wider net.

“This would allow it in most of the residential areas in town but there are a few conditions on that,” Jackson said. “It has to be a proper controller, it has to be a certain charge level that meets with bear smart and safety for community tests to have the proper signage. You can’t put it in (a) setback and it can’t be a replacement for regular fences.”

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These bylaws would expand the opportunity for residents to have electric fences.
The WildSafeBC 2018 Annual Report for Powell River and qathet Regional District shows that the most human-wildlife conflict calls are for black bears (64 percent), followed by deer (23 percent).

Food-conditioned wildlife remains a top cause of conflict.

The most common wildlife attractants are garbage/compost, livestock and livestock feed, and residential fruit trees and berries.

Jackson said the most effective way to reduce human-wildlife conflicts is to better manage solid waste, livestock and pets, and the availability of unharvested fruit and berries.

He noted that electric fences are a widely recommended tool to achieve this.

The bylaw has been on the books for a while, says Jackson.

“We had a presentation from someone in May of this year, and the council gave direction saying go and prepare some kind of a report and any amendment bylaws and this is what staff brought back.”

Jackson said there are “three or four” bylaws attached to this initiative.
“Zoning is just to pull it out of the zoning bylaw, and instead we’re putting all these regulations within the animal control bylaw,” he said.

If council wants to proceed, all four bylaws would be adopted in early September, “which is in time for people to build things so that you’re not leaning your trees or anything and the bears are starting to get hungry and fatten up for the winter; this will be the chance to put in these electric fences where appropriate. Hopefully, this will help with some of the bear challenges we have.”

Jackson said all safety and fire issues have been addressed.

“We’ve had all kinds of assurance that it’s such a low charge and a low pulse rate, and it affects a different type, and the concern about little kids and people wandering onto other people’s yards, but not putting it in setbacks. If you’re mowing your lawn, you’re not going to be mowing (grass) along your fenceline with an electric fence right there.”

He said bears finding their way into people’s yards is causing a bigger public safety issue than “what a little shock on a fence could cause.”

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