New bylaws in BC town bring strict rules against feeding wildlife—even unintentionally

Photo Contest entry by Andrea Lam

Three updated bylaws in the town of Vernon, B.C. aim to further deter residents from feeding wildlife, even unintentionally. Made official this Wednesday, the rules mandate that residents protect animal attractants on their property, such as fruit and nut trees, bird feeders, and compost piles. 

In a release, the City of Vernon stated that regulations “are expected to reduce unintended negative consequences to wildlife, reduce damage to private property by animals, and reduce the potential for human-wildlife conflict.” The province’s Wildlife Act already considers feeding wildlife an offence, but the Vernon bylaws go a step further to include unintentional or neglectful behaviour, like leaving attractants exposed. Violations can come with a fine, but the statement noted that education is “the preferred method to gain compliance.”

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Located about an hour’s drive from Kelowna, Vernon is surrounded by extensive wildland areas, and is home to wildlife common to the Okanagan region, such as deer, cougars, and black bears. Given the location of some residential areas, “it’s common to see wildlife travelling through neighbourhoods,” Christy Poirier, a communications manager for the city said via email. 

Poirier said over the years, residents have been raising concerns about people intentionally feeding animals such as deer, drawing them closer into the city. Feeding wildlife can cause a number of problems, such as having animals become dependent on human food, and making them habituated—which can increase the risk of a dangerous encounter.

Black bears are of particular concern in Vernon; last year, the city was among the five ‘deadliest’ BC communities for the animal, based on provincial data showing how many bears were put down by conservation officers. 

Any area where humans and wildlife coexist can be vulnerable to these issues—be sure to stay informed on how to protect attractants from bears and other animals on your property, and what to do if you do encounter larger animals like bears or cougars close by. 

Read more: Lessons from a bear attack

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