Four bears have been killed in Maple Ridge this year over conflicts with humans as people are failing to heed repeated calls to keep their garbage secure.
B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service reports the municipality, along with Mission, leads in nuisance calls, despite a Bear Aware program that’s been in operation since 2012.
“It’s the same story year after year – of bears getting into garbage, getting habituated and not wanting to leave this area,” said conservation officer Cody Ambrose.
Calls about bears peak closer to fall, so the conservation service is concerned that four have already been killed. Last year, two bears were euthanized, compared to 15 in 2011.
Besides getting into garbage, bears have been going after livestock. They’ve killed chickens but are also chasing goats and harassing horses.
If people want to have hobby farms in Maple Ridge and don’t want to lose their livestock, conservation officers recommend electrical fencing.
“It is cheap from local retailers. A lot cheaper than losing your livestock,” said Ambrose.
Garbage however remains the biggest problem in Maple Ridge as residents continue to leave bins outside overnight and fail to make containers “bear-proof.”
“It’s time people take responsibility for the bear problems,” said Ambrose.
Last year, after one neighbourhood failed to heed repeated warnings to secure garages, conservation officers slapped homeowners with fines.
Ambrose and his colleagues would prefer to be in the back country catching poachers and making sure people are obeying the campfire ban.
“We’d rather catch those people, instead of telling people to keep their garbage secure,” he said.
Since January, there have been 320 reported bear sightings in Maple Ridge. The sightings are about the same as last year but “bears in garbage” calls are a little lower. In Maple Ridge, garbage can only be put outside between 5 a.m and 7 a.m on collection day.
Besides garbage, bears sightings are up because the hungry ruins are feasting on blackberries.
“Residents need to be more aware of their surroundings during berry season.” said Daniel Mikolay, WildsafeBC coordinator for Maple Ridge. “Look for signs like fresh scat on the trail. If you’re walking on trails, go with a friend and talk. Letting any bears in the area know that you are there will reduce conflicts.”
A black bear’s diet is about 80 per cent plant-based which explains why they are seen near berry bushes and fruit trees. Right now, black bears are trying to pack on 20,000 calories a day to prepare for the winter months.
The best way to keep black bears away from urban areas is to remove all attractants like garbage, bird feeders, and fruit. The best way to remove the fruit is to pick it with a group a friends as soon as it’s ripe and then trim back the invasive black berry bushes. There are still plenty of black berry bushes in non-inhabited areas to provide for the bears.
This also goes for other fruit trees such as apples that will be ripening later this month.
If you do encounter a black bear eating berries, don’t startle them. Walk slowly in the opposite direction and find another way to get to your destination. If the black bear spots you, simply face the bear, start walking backwards as you raise your hands over your head and talk to it in a calm, slow voice.
From 2011 to 2012, the conservation service received approximately 37,500 calls regarding human-wildlife conflicts. Of those calls, approximately 23,800 involved bears. Over the past five years in B.C., an average of 600 black bears have been destroyed each year, while 93 were relocated.
To learn more about reducing wildlife conflict go to wildsafebc.com. To report a problem bear call 1-877-952-7277.