Maple Ridge council is considering stricter and quicker controls on bear attractants, including fines up to $500.
Susan Zanders and Leah Cooke represented the group Maple Ridge Bears as a delegation to council in October, requesting changes to protect bears lured to neighbourhoods by garbage left out overnight and other exposed attractants.
Zanders explained the current method of ticketing such behaviours can use up a lot of time for bylaws officials.
There is an emphasis on warnings, and appeals can use up court time – and bylaws time.
The delays mean by the time an offender is fined, a bear might already be habituated – addicted to garbage.
The group looked at Coquitlam’s system, called BEN (bylaw enforcement notices), with fines of $500, which deals with offenders quickly.
The province allows local governments to establish their own bylaw notice adjudication system as an alternative to provincial courts for resolving minor local government bylaw infractions.
The maximum fine can be $500.
Coun. Chelsea Meadus told the bears group a BEN system will be implemented in Maple Ridge as soon as spring 2020.
Meadus said the fine has not been set by council, but she favours a strong deterrent.
“Once people are aware, and they still continue to be a problem, that’s where we have to have enforcement,” she said.
“I am very in favour of what the Maple Ridge Bears group wants,” she added. “Part of that is that they have done their due diligence.”
She said the citizens’ group has done great work in public education and its glean team has volunteered to pick unwanted fruit, then donate it to orphaned cubs at Critter Care in Langley.
In its presentation to council, members asked for a BEN system with higher fines and requiring wildlife-resistant containers when waste is stored outside, as well as a bylaws officer dedicated to the bear issue.
The latter is a big ask, said Meadus, but she said there is enthusiasm in the bylaws department to reduce human-bear conflicts.
Following a year when 13 bears were shot in Maple Ridge, an education campaign will begin in the new year, and the new regulations in spring.
Zanders said members of the group have been canvassing neighbourhoods, offering bear-smart tips, and found most people want to avoid bears conflicts.
“For the most part, people are amazing. My neighbour took down her bird feeder,” she said. “But there’s a few people who don’t care.”
She said there are some houses that continually put their garbage out the night before pickup.
“Some have a ‘so what’ attitude,” she said. “That’s where I think the fines are perfectly fit.”