Hungry bears find Easter chocolate

Put garbage bins in safe place: conservation officer

Mia Paisley shows the garbage can that two bears tried to open after clawing through a wooden garden shed.

Mia Paisley shows the garbage can that two bears tried to open after clawing through a wooden garden shed.

A 2 a.m. wake-up call by a pair of hungry bears serves as another reminder not to put food in your garbage in Maple Ridge.

Mia Paisley woke up last Thursday to her two small dogs barking and whining at her back door of her home on 242 B Street.

Thinking they needed to go to the bathroom, she simply let them out into her back yard.

She quickly realized her dogs had other priorities.

“I stepped outside the door and there were two bears about four feet away from me,” said Paisley.

The bears had clawed their way through a wooden garden shed and were attempting to open a garbage can.

“The only thing in there was some old Easter chocolate,” said Paisley. “There wasn’t much in there.”

She said the bears immediately ran away when the dogs were let out, and in the process barreled through her wooden fence like it was made of matchsticks.

Paisley said she was surprised the bears could track down such a small amount of food.

Local conservation officer Todd Hunter said at this time of year bears have one thing on their mind.

“If you leave food out that has any caloric value whatsoever, they will find it,” said Hunter. “It might not seem like much, but trust me, they will track it down.”

The conservation office has experienced a recent spike in calls since the start of April as people are still leaving out garbage and bird seed. He said people living near green belts need to be especially careful. While no bears have been put down in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows area yet, Hunter said the public must be vigilant.

“We desperately need the public on our side to help with this,” said Hunter.

“Ultimately, the bear is going to lose out and have to be destroyed. But there’s a real safety risk for the public, too. We can’t always respond immediately and these are wild animals.”

Maple Ridge had to put down six bears in 2014, down from 12 in 2013. As many as 30 bears have had to be destroyed in the area in one year due mostly to people leaving out garbage, according to Hunter.

Maple Ridge’s bear aware program, now called WildSafeBC, was reinstated for 2015 after some last-minute funding rescued the program.

WildSafeBC, which educates people about reducing conflicts with bears, was threatened with cancellation after the city missed the deadline for applying for provincial grants.

Dan Mikolay, who works at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society, has served as the WildSafeBC coordinator for the past three years.

Maple Ridge had been receiving $5,000 from the group to allow it to offer the program, which runs May to November.

But thanks to another city pulling out, WildSafeBC now said it can give Maple Ridge $2,000.

The city will scrape together another $3,000 from the money it saved by using bear-proof containers, which require less servicing by staff, in parks to come up with the required $5,000.