A dozen bears were killed this year in Maple Ridge as repeated calls for residents to keep their garbage secure continue to fall on deaf ears.
B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service reports the municipality, along with the Tri-Cities, leads the province in nuisance calls, despite a Bear Aware program that’s been in operation since 2012.
There were almost 100 more calls from Maple Ridge to the conservation service this year over last (683 from 588).
The number of bears euthanized this year is four times the number killed in 2012 and slightly lower than 2011, when 15 bears were put down.
It’s a simple equation. More people are moving into areas frequented by bears, which use wildlife corridors next to developments to get around in search of food. And “as we develop on those hillsides, absolutely we’re going to see an increase in conflict,” said Sgt. Steve Jacobi of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
It means the COS’s Maple Ridge-based officers are stretched to the limit.
The District of Maple Ridge has a Bear Aware program that targets neighbourhoods which generate the most conflict calls, to educate residents.
It’s been a year since a bylaw was put in place restricting when garbage can be put out, but the district hasn’t handed out a single fine.
Bylaws director Liz Holitzki said her department issued 74 warning notices to people who put their trash out before the morning of pickup, but no tickets were necessary as there were no second offences at the same properties.
Bear Aware will continue its education campaign through the winter because not all bears hibernate. Male bears will stick around if there’s enough food.
“Twelve bears destroyed is an obscene number,” said Dan Mikolay, a WildSafeBC coordinator based in Maple Ridge.
Some of them were euthanized because of an injury, but most were killed after becoming hooked on garbage and other attractants.
Garbage is still the No. 1 reason bears are wandering into residential neighbourhoods. The second is bird feeders.
“This year we have focused on high-incident areas, trying to educate residents on the need to properly store their garbage, not putting bird feeders out, and recycling their BBQ grease at the recycling depot,” said Mikolay.
Despite the number of bears killed, he believes progress is slowly being made.
“I am seeing more bear-resistant garbage cans out on the curb when I go out to check on early set-outs. It is a small investment, but it dramatically reduces wildlife conflict,” he added.
Ross Davies, with the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, has also noticed more bears around this year. His latest encounter with a bruin was two weeks ago.
For a community to be completely “Bear Smart,” every single home would need to be bear-proof.
“It’s like a chain, one missing link and you have a problem,” he added.
Davies recommends making a bear’s visit to your property as unpleasant as possible. Toot your car horn, yell and drive the bear away.
“If he’s in the back 40, then that’s no problem. But if he’s out on your porch, he’s got to be told it’s your den, you are the bigger bear,” said Davies, who lives along Fern Crescent, a neighbourhood often frequented by garbage-addicted bears.
“We’ve never had to fink on a black bear the whole time we’ve lived here. But if a bear doesn’t leave your property within a minute, then he needs to be reported.”
Meanwhile, province-wide, 325 black bears were killed last year, compared to 460 in 2012. Calls for black bear and grizzly sightings were also down, to 13,023 from 14,549 the year previous.
– with files from The Tri-City News