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'It's a people problem': Unsecured garbage bins continue to attract bears on Bear Mountain

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Shauna Owens-Krahn lives on Bear Mountain in Langford. Four times a day she takes her dogs for walks through the trails near her home and carries bear spray, just in case.

“I just learned that there was a bear in the neighbourhood two weeks ago,” said Owens-Krahn.

In fact it’s three bears, a mother bear and her two cubs. They were first spotted in the area in October, captured on many home surveillance systems and seen getting into people’s garbage.

It appears Bear Mountain has a bear problem.

“Unfortunately it’s not a bear problem, it’s a people problem,” said Mollie Cameron, president of Wild Wise.

Wild Wise, along with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, has been working tirelessly in the attempt to persuade residents to better secure their trash on Bear Mountain with little success.

“There’s really no excuse for the amount of garbage bins that are being left outside on a constant basis,” said Cameron.

She says bears are animals of opportunity and can smell garbage from a kilometre away. Cameron fears if residents don’t start to properly store their trash, it will lead to those three bears being destroyed.

“If these bears do lose their lives, more bears are just going to come in,” said Cameron.

Last year, a neighbourhood in View Royal dealt with a similar situation caused by a mother bear and her three cubs that had become habituated to household garbage.

“I remember not being able to go to school that day because I was just in such a state of mourning,” said Alaina Miller, a View Royal resident back in March.

The mother bear was ultimately destroyed by conservation officers. The three cubs, all under one year of age, were placed at a recovery centre.

The town of View Royal later approved a pilot project providing access to bear-proof bins to residents in bear prone areas.

Back on Bear Mountain those cubs won’t be so lucky.

“Unfortunately those bears are over a year old so they wouldn’t be eligible to go to rehab,” said Cameron.

The City of Langford doesn’t provide garbage services as a utility but residents do have options when it comes to bear-proof bins.

“To outright purchase a bear proof bin is $250, it’s under $5 a month to rent one from GFL,” said Cameron.

On Bear Mountain, that small investment could mean sparing the lives of those three bears.

“The education is, you just don’t leave garbage out,” said Owens-Krahn.

“Coexistence is a really complex issue but it has a lot of really simple solutions,” said Cameron. 

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