Maple Ridge’s bear aware program, now called WildSafeBC, is back on for another season after a last-minute chat and some new-found savings.
The program, which educates people about reducing conflicts with bears, was threatened with cancellation after the city missed the deadline for applying for WildSafeBC money to allow the year’s program to operate.
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.
“We’ll still do the same program that we did before,” said director of parks and facilities Dave Boag.
Mikolay will be visiting schools and speaking at public events to get out the message about keeping bears and people safe by not leaving out food.
But it’s not just bears that can create problems when people start building their homes in forested areas.
“The reality is that there are a large number of wild animals that are impacted by the interaction with humans on the forest interface. It is common to see deer, raccoons, skunks and coyotes wandering through neighbourhoods foraging for food,” says a city news release.
In 2013, the city passed a bylaw requiring people to put out their garbage only the morning of collection, rather than the night before.
If they don’t, garbage cans be tagged and residents fined.
The next step Maple Ridge could take, if council decided, is requiring residences in areas near forests to use bear-proof garbage containers.
But that’s not under consideration so far.
If Maple Ridge meets several the conditions, it could apply to become a Bear Smart Community, proving that it’s taken all possible steps to discourage bears.
Some of those requirements include creating a plan to reduce human-bear conflicts, implementing a continuing education program and passing bylaws banning bad management of attractants.
Another requirement is instituting a bear-proof garbage system.
Conservation officer Todd Hunter told council recently that the numbers of bears that had to be killed in Maple Ridge has decreased.
“The less bears we have to relocate or destroy the better, so I’d like to keep on that trend and have that coordinator position in place.”
Six bears were killed in Maple Ridge 2014, down from 12 in 2013. He said as many as 30 bears have had to be destroyed in the region due mostly to people leaving out garbage.
Garbage, gardens, poultry and fruit trees are the most common attractants for wildlife.