Coquitlam residents warned over trash attracting bears
Despite repeated warnings that their actions are dangerous and lead to bears being put down, some Metro Vancouver residents living in close proximity to the wilderness continue to leave bear attractants around their homes.
"By allowing bears access into human food sources, you start to habituate them to human presence," said Conservation Officer Nicole Caithness. "And once they lose that fear of humans, that's when they start becoming dangerous."
Bears are such a nuisance in Coquitlam, the city stuffed and displays one inside the front door of City Hall.
The stuffed bear was known to frequent a neighbourhood, eating garbage and died after being hit by a car.
The municipality has a bylaw requiring residents to keep their garbage and compost secure until 5:30 a.m. the day of pick up.
But Mayor Richard Stewart has seen the evidence of people violating that rule while riding home from council meetings.
"I'm riding at midnight and I'm riding past the Tuesday morning collections," said Stewart. "And that frustrates me...to see garbage cans and organics bins out there attracting bears."
Conservation officers say this is the time of year when many bears become habituated to human garbage because a lot of their natural food sources are not available yet.
"They're kind of dependant on grass and skunk cabbage and those types of things until the salmon berry crop ripens," said Caithness. "So, right now, yes, for sure if they get into the garbage at one property then they're definitely going to keep coming back."
Caithness says conservation officers have already put down multiple bears in Metro Vancouver this spring.
Some Coquitlam residents are getting the message.
In 2017, bylaw officers observed 4,914 early garbage infractions, but last year that number dropped to 2,689.
So far this year there have been just 512.
"Absolutely pleased to see the numbers coming down," said Stewart. "We can do better and we need to instill in every body what's at stake."