He’s been poking around the back yards of Albion homes for few years now, ambling along green spaces between houses, helping himself to snacks of leftovers that residents temptingly leave at curbside, and at least once, nipping into a garage to get at a garbage can, then splitting, fast.
The black bear, or maybe it’s a few that look like each other, has been in the area of 100B Avenue and 243A Street for a dozen years, says Albion resident Elizabeth Taylor.
It’s a nice enough bear, she says.
It just seems to mind his own business and does what bears do – constantly scavenge and eat.
But Taylor, a former candidate for Maple Ridge council, is getting tired of being the unofficial game warden, or janitor for the area.
She’s always cleaning up the remains of the meals and pleading with her neighbours to store their trash inside until garbage pick-up day.
“We are so fed up with cleaning up everyone’s garbage. But we don’t want the bear harmed.”
Last week, conservation officers left a bear trap in her yard after a panicked neighbour made a phone call.
Taylor, though, says Maple Ridge should have a bylaw requiring residents to keep their garbage inside until the morning of pick-up.
“All these houses, there and no fines for putting out your garbage and no fines for putting recycling in your garbage.
“Don’t put out your garbage at night. Put it out in the morning. It would solve a lot of problems.”
Maple Ridge’s system of using only private companies to pick up garbage means garbage cans are on the streets three times in one week, as residents follow the schedules for the different companies.
Even an open garbage can in a neighbourhood park adds to the problem.
Taylor doesn’t want the bear to be shot because it’s become used to free meals and lost its fear of people.
Last fall, a neighbour left his garage door open and the bear nipped in and dragged out three bags of garbage.
Taylor jumped into her car and drove into the driveway, horn blaring, to scare away the bear.
“The bear’s done no harm to anybody. But there’s a lot of people freaked out.”
She came face to face with him once, and the bear turned and climbed over a fence.
And last summer, near where the trap is located, a nine-year-old girl was picking black berries, encountered the bear, screamed and ran. “The poor bear. The bear looked as traumatized as she was,” Taylor added.
She wants the district to pick up the garbage every other week.
People also are putting their recyclables into the garbage bags, which then just get tossed into the garbage stream.
“We’re not environmentally friendly in Maple Ridge and we need to stop lying about it.”
So far, the bear is wise to the big blue trap and on the weekend didn’t fall temptation to the carton of molasses and a bit of fish that was sitting inside as bait.
But that wouldn’t be as enticing as garbage from dozens of homes, she points out.
Maple Ridge announced earlier this year it was starting a Bear Aware program, but it relies on education only, with no requirements for bear-proof containers or when garbage may be put at curbside.
According to the District of Maple Ridge, last year the Conservation Officer Service killed 16 bears in Maple Ridge that had become habituated to human contact.
If human-associated food is readily available, bears will quickly learn to forage in suburbs, threatening the safety of residents and bears, said a news release from earlier this month.
Rosie Wijenberg was recently named as the Bear Aware community coordinator.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said Maple Ridge unveiled its Bear Aware program earlier this year, taking a low-key approach.
“We started with education. We started with an awareness.”
One approach is to use door hangars to let people know it’s not a good idea to leave their garbage out overnight and making them aware that they can get a bear-proof container.
The next step could be putting stickers on garbage cans, telling people to not to put out their garbage at curbside until the morning of pickup.
“It’s a progression. At some point we may do a bylaw and ticket people.”
Most people want to do the right thing, he added.
As well, the district is gradually putting bear-proof garbage containers in its parks.
“We started doing that last year.”
Bear Aware tips
• Keep your garbage in a location inaccessible to bears. If you do not have secure garbage storage, you can freeze smelly food items until collection or take the garbage directly to the transfer station. You can also use a bear-resistant garbage can.
• Birdseed is particularly attractive to bears in the spring. Birds don’t need additional feed in the summer. Bring bird feeders indoors until November.
• Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily. Consider fruit gleaning or tree removal for any unused fruit trees.
• Compost, outdoor fridges, barbecues, chickens, and pet food are also items that, when managed improperly, become bear attractants.