Coquitlam under bear watch

Bear pic
Bears walk through a forested area near a neighbourhood in Port Moody. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Fulton

This article was originally published in The Voice. http://www.langaravoice.ca/coquitlam-launches-annual-bear-smart-campaign/

Coquitlam has begun its annual campaign to remind its residents to be “bear smart” because bears will soon wake up from hibernation and wander through neighbourhoods in search of food.

The city’s campaign, which includes social media, advertising and door-to-door canvassing, is in its 10th year.

But many residents still disobey bylaws that prohibit garbage cans and green waste bins from being placed on the street the night before designated days for pickup.

“Garbage is the number one attractant,” said Criag Hodge, a Coquitlam city councillor. “I think we’ve made good progress through education and enforcement but there’s no question that more needs to be done.”

Coquitlam has made changes to its garbage collection and increased enforcement of it Solid Waste Bylaw. Residents are fined $500 if they feed bears and that includes when a bear knocks over their garbage can and eats waste that falls out. The city issued 1,643 warnings and 315 tickets in 2016.

David Karn, a conservation officer at the ministry of environment conservation office service, said officers work with the city to manage bears in neighbourhoods.

“We have set traps in residential areas through the city to catch bears,” Karn said.

According to statistics compiled by the city, in 2016, conservation officers received 1,927 calls which was almost double the 973 calls received in 2015. Conservation officers shot 15 bears last year, a higher number than usual, said a report presented to council last February.

Ticket Stats.jpg

The number of calls to conservation officers increased after a bear attacked a young girl last August.

“There was a girl who was attacked by a bear in the Tri-Cities last year so that brought a lot of awareness to the bear in the area,” said Julie Kanya, Coquitlam’s urban wildlife coordinator.

The incident happened in Port Coquitlam near the Coquitlam River and Karn said city bears typically cross the boundaries of the Tri-Cities.

Coquitlam is a growing urban area and in Westwood Plateau and on Burke Mountain new development is replacing forest areas.

I think our biggest challenge isn’t so much that we’re displacing the bears,” Hodge said. “It’s that we’re drawing the bears into our neighbourhoods and that’s why we’re working so heavily to deal with bear attractants, garbage and so on.”

The city operates its campaign through social media, print, broadcast, door-to-door canvassing and participates in large public events to do more outreach to new residents especially.

“We brought in a number of initiatives over the last couple of years to try to reduce human and wildlife conflict,” Hodge said.

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