The group undertook cleaning of the construction area in a new subdivision off 232 St. in Maple Ridge. (Kristina Whitlock/Special to The News)

Group in Maple Ridge undertakes cleanup to prevent bear-human conflict

We need to improve our interactions with wildlife, says the group administrator

A Maple Ridge-based bear-aware group took cleanup in their own hands to mitigate bear-human conflict risks in the area.

Maple Ridge Bears, a group formed in Spring 2019, due to a high number of bears being destroyed in Maple Ridge and Silver Valley specifically, as a result of negative human interactions, recently took up cleanup of a construction zone.

Kristina Whitlock, along with Leah Cooke and Cricket Minich, who are the administrators of the Maple Ridge Bears group, organized cleanup in a conservation area adjacent to a construction site in a new subdivision off 232 St. in Maple Ridge.

“There was a large amount of household and some construction trash spread through the breezeways in that area. Volunteers collected the trash and Dan Mikolay, from WildsafeBC assisted in taking it to the transfer station. He also reported this occurrence to the city of Maple Ridge Bylaw Department for further investigation,” said Whitlock, adding the group hadn’t heard from the city on whether there would be any action taken against those thrashing the area, or not.

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The concern with this area is the use of open construction waste bins which are supposed to be for construction waste only not food waste, Whitlock explained.

“Unfortunately, the fact is that somehow food waste is ending up in these bins. It could be being put there by citizens or by workers, we don’t know for certain. The bags we found when cleaning household garbage and construction materials, had some food waste mixed in,” she said. “The bears climb in, as I have witnessed, and pull them into the green space to investigate. Once bears associate these bins with food they will continue to return for a meal.”

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She also expressed another concern with the area i.e. unfamiliarity of trash bylaws. What has been problematic according to her is some new residents who may not be familiar with trash bylaws have been setting out trash early or storing bins outside, which are both ticketable offenses and a major bear attractant.

“We have distributed information pamphlets to the entire area,” said Whitlock, adding that the members of the group have been distributing literature, attending areas where bears frequent or are sighted, and have been answering questions through their Facebook page “Maple Ridge Bears”.

COVID made it a difficult to continue educational programming for the group but they didn’t give up and instead, organized a colouring contest with prizes last year, to keep people engaged on how to remove attractants and keep bears safe.

“As a community, we need to improve our interactions with wildlife. We are moving into their habitats and then we engage in poor practices, such as leaving attractants accessible, which often result in bears being destroyed. Bears coexist with us everyday and they deserve more from us as a community,” Whitlock said.

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Gabriel Fournier, helping clean up the construction area in a new subdivision off 232 St. in Maple Ridge. (Kristina Whitlock/Special to The News)

Gabriel Fournier, helping clean up the construction area in a new subdivision off 232 St. in Maple Ridge. (Kristina Whitlock/Special to The News)