New Powell River resident Kate Dryden Dunn is advocating for electric fencing to protect residential properties from wildlife intruders such as bears.
Appearing before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole on Tuesday, May 14, Dryden Dunn, having moved here a year and a half ago, said she and her husband bought a “really lovely” house in the Townsite.
She wanted to live in a community with a real proximity and integration with nature, but also one that had a culture of urban farming, gardening, sustainability and food security.
Her house in Townsite came with five mature fruit trees in the backyard. She said she knew there were going to be bears in the area but what she did not know is there is no provision in bylaws for electric fencing in residential zoning.
“We’re already running into problems with that and we’ve only owned the house for less than a year,” said Dryden Dunn. “Speaking with my neighbours, it’s an ongoing concern all through Townsite and all through Powell River. The bears are coming into yards and they are going after everything.”
Dryden Dunn said they picked all of the fruit from their trees early in the season but it didn’t matter. A bear came through and knocked down the gate.
Dryden Dunn said the matter of electric fencing has been on council’s action list. Allowing electric fencing could be a positive development for the community, she said.
In researching this topic, Dryden Dunn said she has been in contact with WildSafeBC, the local conservation office, Townsite Ratepayers Association and local residents. She said the conservation service keeps track of the attractants that are reported in bear incidents. Livestock feed and garbage were the highest, followed by fruit trees and berries.
“These are things that aren’t just present in agricultural zoning; this is city-wide, through commercial, residential and every kind of zoning.” said Dryden Dunn. “It doesn’t matter how much we are changing up our habits, it doesn’t matter that we are picking our fruit trees early, the bears in my neighbourhood have been eating fruit off our trees for longer than I’ve been there; they know it’s there and they are going to keep coming back.”
Electric fencing is the gold standard for keeping human and wildlife encounters to a minimum, said Dryden Dunn. Wildwood has provision for it. She’s spoken to property owners there who have electric fencing and they are really happy with it.
Electric fencing is not dangerous, said Dryden Dunn.
“Volts hurt, amps kill, and electric fences are high voltage and low amperage,” she said. “Electric fences are not something people are going to randomly come across and accidently encounter.”
Councillor Rob Southcott said electric fences have been in Powell River since he was a kid and they were effective back then as well.
“In my view there are very few downsides; the concerns about danger are mostly due to ignorance,” said Southcott. “There are no problems that I know of in Wildwood. They are very effectively used up there. I’m wondering if we could write something simple to allow electric fences, particularly where these interaction problems are going to occur.”
Corporate officer Chris Jackson said the issue is on the city’s action list and a meeting is planned in the near future to talk about animal control, not specifically about electric fencing, but in terms of getting the bylaw updated.
“It is an action we are undertaking,” said Jackson.
An amendment to the bylaw to allow electric fencing would require the matter to go to public hearing if council deems it appropriate. There is a bit of a process if it is what council wants to do, according to Jackson.
“Perhaps we can be looking at having something in place early in the summer so that when it comes to the fall, there is an opportunity for electric fencing,” said Jackson.
Councillor Jim Palm said if this reduces the number of phone calls to the conservation service and protects people from safety concerns, this is something for which staff could maybe provide a report and provide details on the prospect of electric fencing in the city.
Mayor Dave Formosa said he supports electric fencing and has major problems with bears around Powell Lake.
“I would like to put up fencing around the two areas that are giving us major bear problems,” said Formosa.
Council directed staff to review electric fencing regulations within existing bylaws with a mind to removing them, allowing electric fences on properties; and to bring a report back to council within the next month.