THE NEWS/files                                Bears get into suburbs looking for garbage.

THE NEWS/files Bears get into suburbs looking for garbage.

So far, only one dead bear in Maple Ridge

Education, enforcement helping reduce conflicts

It’s a bad year for bears, conservation official say, as the long winter and heavy snow pack covered up food for months.

In Maple Ridge, though, fewer bears are being killed.

So far this year, only one bear has been killed. That happened June 24 along 232nd Street near Yennadon elementary because the bear had become too accustomed to easy trash food.

The bear was trapped and later shot by conservation officers.

Despite conditions that has pushed dozens of bears out of the bushes, with the berry crop still not fully out, the number of bears having to be shot is down considerably from years previously.

Some years, 20 to 30 bears have been shot.

Conservation officer Todd Hunter said bear aware efforts and the bylaw requiring people in certain areas to keep their garbage indoors until the morning of pickup are making the difference.

“We’ve got some really good education out there,” he said.

“Last year was a big improvement from the year before.”

The number of bear encounters and bears having to be shot varies yearly.

However, the number of calls about bear sightings in Maple Ridge is up this year.

Last year, there were 122 such calls.

This year, from April to June, there have been 418 calls.

“The higher call volume is consistent with the rest of our zone: high and up,” Hunter said.

Hunter always urges people to call the conservation office.

“We do appreciate people calling. It does give us valuable information when it comes to managing wildlife.”

The main corridors for the wildlife in Maple Ridge are Kanaka Creek and Alouette River. From there, bears and cougars will snoop around nearby farms, where the bears find the animal feed particularly attractive.

Any residential areas along rivers will attract bears, he added, while the Albion area continues to be a hot spot.

In 2013, the City of Maple Ridge passed a bylaw requiring people to keep their garbage indoors until the morning of pickup.

The city’s bear aware program is now a provincewide one, called WildSafeBC, aimed at reducing wildlife encounters.

Garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders and barbecues can all attract bears and eventually cause them to be killed.

Another practice that draws bears is when construction crews dump their food garbage into the big construction bins used for hauling away waste. Despite the high walls of those bins, bears are drawn to them.

“Bears are designed and built by nature to get into things.”

With the prevalance of bears in B.C., everyone should be an expert, he adds.

If you’re walking or hiking in the bush, expect to encounter wildlife and know what to do. Have bear spray ready and know how to use it. Go in groups, make noise. Air horns, particularly the new ones with a high pitch, work, too.

At certain times of the year, it’s not a good idea to run by yourself along the trails. That can lead to a surprise encounter with an animal. Often the act of running can trigger a predatory response.

“Some people have run right into wildlife.”

Hunter said there are lots of cougars and bobcats this year, as well, which are drawn to a healthy rabbit population around Kanaka Creek.

“We’ve had a lot of calls for cougars.”

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.