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Lake resident, GNWT argue over bear deaths
Kevin Stapleton says territorial park needs to share blame

Terrence McEachern
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 30, 2011

A Prelude Lake resident says he isn't trying to pick a fight, but previous comments made by some GNWT employees solely blaming Prelude residents for the shooting deaths of a mother bear and her three cubs on Aug. 24 are hypocritical.

NNSL photo/graphic

Prelude Resident Kevin Stapleton says it's hypocritical for some GNWT employees to solely blame Prelude Lake residents for the shooting deaths of four bears attracted to garbage left out by residents when the GNWT isn't taking care of its garbage either, as evident in this Sept. 5 photo taken at Prelude Lake Territorial Park. - NNSL file photo

"It's not just the homeowners - it's the GNWT parks people (and) it's the campers - everybody needs to take some responsibility," said Kevin Stapleton, a Prelude Lake Main resident for the last two years.

"The reason for the bears being there and the reason these bears got shot - the finger has been pointed that it's because garbage is being left around."

In an article appearing in Yellowknifer Aug. 30, Ian Ellsworth, a wildlife officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said, "Every time we received a call it was always in response to improperly stored garbage of the Prelude Lake residents."

"The bears are getting into the garbage, they are feeding in people's yards and they became habituated to the garbage."

Bruce Davidson, campground manager at Prelude Lake Territorial Park, is also quoted as saying, "Last week I saw them wandering into the cabin area and they spent about an hour feeding on garbage. It doesn't make you happy when you see a mother feeding on garage with her cubs. There is no turning back for the bears from there."

However, photos taken by another Prelude Lake resident showing garbage lying outside the bear-proof bins by the Prelude Lake Territorial Park gatehouse for three straight days on Sept. 5, 6 and 7 support the argument that blame needs to be shared, said Stapleton.

Tracy St. Denis, regional superintendent for the GNWT's Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, which is in charge of the park, said that with respect to the remarks and the photos, she replied that "Mr. Stapleton is entitled to his opinion."

She added that what she wants to focus on is how the department can improve the garbage situation in the park for next season through public education.

St. Denis said park staff pick up garbage before and after each weekend, and on Sept. 5, when the first photo was taken, was especially busy because it was the Labour Day long weekend. She added that park staff work hard removing garbage from the park, but this needs to be supplemented with education programs directed at campers but moreover city residents about dropping off garbage at the park.

"What's happening this summer is people are leaving household garbage (in the park). We have had a recliner, sofa, fridges, propane stoves, insulation -

the troubling one that people seem to be leaving are honey buckets (portable toilets)."

On whether the frequency of garbage pick-up in the park will be increased, St. Denis said that will be a topic of discussion at the department's post-session review. Now that the park is closed for the season (since Sept. 15), she's asking people who continue to camp there to take their garbage with them when they leave. St. Denis said ITI has accepted an offer for assistance from another GNWT department - Environment and Natural Resources - about future public education campaigns aimed at campers and residents regarding the issue of garbage in the park.

Stapleton agreed that education is the key, but that everyone needs to be educated, including the GNWT.

"We'll take our fair share of the blame, but let's look at the whole picture here ... Yes, those cabin owners left garbage out that day and the bears got into (it). Fair enough. But it's not just that one instance that caused those bears to hang around."

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