Bears are starting to come out of hibernation, coordinator of Maple Ridge division of WildSafeBC warns. (Ross Davies/Special to The News)

Bear sightings in Maple Ridge

Coordinator of WildSafeBC Maple Ridge warning residents to eliminate attractants

The head of a Maple Ridge bear aware organization wants residents of the city to lock up and eliminate any bear attractants after some bear sightings this past week.

A sow with cubs were among a few of the bears that have been spotted around the city, said Dan Mikolay, coordinator of Maple Ridge division of WildSafeBC, and he is reminding residents that bears are starting to come out of hibernation.

Last year, he said, four bears were killed after becoming habituated to garbage and other attractants. However, that number was dramatically reduced from 2019 when 14 bears were killed.

This year he is hoping to be proactive so no bears are killed.

“The only way for this to happen is a total commitment from all the stakeholders. The largest stakeholder is us, the residents,” Mikolay pointed out in an online post.

READ MORE: Conservation officer warns Maple Ridge residents to be bear aware this spring

Removing attractants in the spring and fall when bears are looking for easy calories is very important, he explained. Young bears, he said, need to be “home-schooled” by us. Removing outside garbage and bird feeders, allows the young bears to find natural foods in the area.

Typical winter enforcement did not take place this past year because of the ongoing pandemic, said Mikolay.

That means he has more work to do educating residents and getting the message out.

Normally over the winter months there are several patrols that take place between WildSafe and city bylaws officials.

First Mikolay will do an educational patrol teaching residents about the city’s Vector Control Bylaw and the fines that result from breaking the rules.

“That’s pretty effective,” said Mikolay, adding it eliminates about 50 per cent of bear attractant situations.

Then bylaws will do a sweep where they will issue warnings. This will eliminate another 30 to 40 percent.

“A lot of people don’t realize setting recycling out early is a violation of the vector bylaw,” explained Mikolay.

They think only garbage and compost are attractants. But, all of it is an attractant, he added.

After the first couple of sweeps, only the really obstinate people are usually left, and this year they might just be getting fines – of up to $500.

READ MORE: Conservation searching for shot bear in Maple Ridge

“If you got a warning last year it’s possible you could be getting a ticket this year, if it’s obvious you haven’t learned,” he said.

Mikolay wants residents to understand it’s not enough to stop putting your garbage, recycling and compost out early on garbage days, but if the bins are stored outside the house, then they must be bear resistant with a lock on the lid and secured onto some type of post so the bear can’t knock it over.

He is also teaching livestock owners the benefits of electrical fencing. Last year around 20 electrical fences were installed in Maple Ridge thanks to Mikolay and his team.

Mikolay owns a portable electrical fence kit, so when a bear gets into a chicken coup, bylaws will give him a call and he will lend the residents the kit.

Once the resident see the effectiveness of electric fencing, they usually put up their own permanent fencing, noted Mikolay.

And, through word of mouth, others are doing the same.

Last year, there were a couple of successful campaigns that Mikolay noted helped to keep bear deaths to a minimum.

In the Silver Valley and Rockridge areas, residents took it upon themselves to do an attractants shutdown. And, what Mikolay likes to call the “Abernethy firewall”, was created to deter bears from walking into the downtown area.

Conservation were also able to conduct a series of short-haul relocations of bears that were only at the beginning stages of being habituated to local attractants. Once the community shut down the attractants, Conservation did the relocations to help with the situation.

This year Mikolay wants to extend his patrols to west Maple Ridge where, he said, residents don’t believe they have to worry as much.

If you see a bear, report it, he said.

By knowing where the bears are, organizations like his can be proactive in the neighbourhood before the bear’s habits change.

“We can get to the problem before it becomes a problem and that’s what we are really trying to do this year,” he said.

To report a bear in the area contact mapleridge@wildsafebc.com or mapleridgebears@gmail.com.

Or if it is a situation that could potentially threaten public safety, contact the Conservation Officer Services at 1-877-952-7277.


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