Albion bears may have to be killed

Mother and two cubs causing most of the problems in east Maple Ridge neighbourhood.

While black bears are generally shy of humans

While black bears are generally shy of humans

Albion residents are upset that bear traps have been set up in their neighbourhood, and that a mother and her cubs will likely be killed.

Jack Mosterd said the bears have been routinely visible for about three years. While some residents take necessary steps to ensure the bears don’t find a ready food source – he knows one neighbour who even freezes her garbage to suppress bear-enticing odours – others still carry on, business as usual.

The main problem, he said, is those who put their garbage out the night before pickup.

He believes there are about five bruins who frequent the area where the traps have been set, including a sow black bear, and her two juvenile offspring, who have been taught by their mother to find easy meals in the subdivision.

There is also a boar who has “not been causing trouble,” and at least one other bear.

“They’re not afraid of people, because they’ve been here so long,” said Mosterd.

One trap has been set in the area of 243 Street and 102 B Avenue. It is essentially a steel barrel with bait, designed to catch the bears alive.

However, residents have learned from conversation officers that the bears may have to be put down.

“I love animals,” said Mosterd. “When an animal has to be killed, it just bothers me.”

“I told them, ‘You guys are taking the easy way out – it’s easier to trap them and kill them.’”

Conservation officer Denny Chretien said killing the bears is a last resort, but there have been repeated issues of bears getting into garbage in the Albion area over the past three years.

“They are gaining in age, and they are gaining in their habituation, and they are definitely food conditioned to non-natural food sources,” he said.

Now the bears are going onto decks and porches, and even in the back of pickups.

“And they don’t shoo away at all when they encounter people,” Chretien said, noting they will move away, but not far, and they soon return.

“You have food-conditioned bears living amongst humans, with no fear of them,” said the conservation officer, adding these are cues that a bear may become dangerous.

“That threshold of human safety is really close,” said Chretien.

While black bears are generally shy of humans, every year in B.C. there are cases of people being attacked. Last year, a Whistler man was sitting in his hot tub when a bear approached him from behind, and swatted his head.

Just as getting between a mother bear and her cubs can be dangerous, Chretien said a close second is getting between a juvenile bear and a food source.

He added there is a playground in the area.

“We can’t have it [an attack on a child] happen.”

The pre-adult bears and their mother are causing a lot of the problems and concern. Chretien said he has been watching them over a period of three years, and has determined some may indeed have to be killed.

“It’s sad, and that’s not what we want to do.”

He said a bruin was trapped there last year, but it was not the problem bears he was looking for, and it was relocated.

Chretien said, to date, he has only warned people about putting out their garbage the night before pickup, but he noted it is a ticket-able offence, and he could write offenders a $230 fine.

Bird feeders are also a problem, as bears will climb trees and get the seed, and barbecues with food scraps on them are another common attractant.

There are other areas of Maple Ridge that have similar levels of human-bear conflict, but Chretien noted they are generally in less densely populated areas.