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.

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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.

Parks to enjoy and protect the environment

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Neighbourhood, community and city parks in Coquitlam offer different amenities for residents to enjoy near their homes and across the city. Google Images/Photo

Different types of parks for different kinds of enjoyment and keeping up with growing neighbourhoods, that’s the goal behind green spaces in Coquitlam.

“We’re in constant process of developing new parks, it’s based on growth. We have new parks that are either being planned or being built right now across the city,” said Kathleen Reinheimer, Coquitlam parks manager.

Neighbourhood, community and city parks offer Coquitlam residents different of experiences because of the amenities and activities they include. Neighbourhood parks are within walking distance of homes, community parks are farther away from homes and have more amenities than neighbourhood parks and city parks, such as Town Centre Park, offer a range of activities that attract people from across the urban area.

As neighbourhoods grow, the city looks to expand neighbourhood parks and waits for owners of property that can turned into park land, to sell their real estate. That’s what the city is doing at Cottonwood Park.

Reinheimer said, “We make a bid based on what our assessment says it is. Generally the property owner does their own assessment independently and then it’s negotiated. It’s a voluntary sale based on current land value. The city does not expropriate.”

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Coquitlam’s trails wind through forests that allow resident to enjoy the natural surroundings. City of Coquitlam/Photo

The city grows indigenous plants in its parks when possible.

“We can’t put a native tree on a street scape because there isn’t room for a big cedar to develop or a big Douglas Fir to develop. It’s about finding the right plant for the condition and delivering an experience for the community,” Reinheimer said.

A 103-kilometre trail system that includes Lakeside Loop that winds around Como Lake Park and interlocking trails in Mundy Park & Riverview Forest Trails is part of the city’s protection of creeks and streams in natural areas and forests for the community to enjoy.

“It’s about ensuring we end up with sustainable and healthy ecosystems,” Reinheimer said.