COQUITLAM, B.C., April 6, 2022 – Bears are waking up from winter denning and looking for an easy meal – including garbage, birdseed and other unnatural food sources on Coquitlam properties.
In designated Bear Smart communities like Coquitlam, everyone has a responsibility to keep bears away from their properties and neighbourhoods. With bear season now under way, the City is ramping up its annual education and enforcement campaign that includes community outreach to raise awareness as well as patrols, warnings and tickets to ensure local bear regulations are followed.
Unsecured Attractants Put Bears at Risk
Guided by massive appetites and a keen sense of smell, bears aren’t picky about what they eat and will choose the easiest meal. They’re enticed by unsecured garbage carts – particularly those left overnight at the curb – as well as open dumpsters, unrinsed recyclables, pet food, fallen fruit, bird feeders, compost and dirty barbecues.
Bears will often move on if they don’t find anything that interests them – but if they do, they’ll be back and are likely to check out the neighbours, too. Bears that become habituated to unnatural food sources can lose their fear of people and become a safety risk to residents.
To keep people and bears safe, all wildlife attractants in Coquitlam must be properly stored, including:
- Putting food scraps in Green Carts
- Storing Garbage Carts, Green Carts and recycling in an area inaccessible to wildlife
- Placing carts and recycling at the curb on collection day after 5:30 a.m.
- Storing freezers and refrigerators inside
- Keeping pet food inside
- Picking ripe and fallen fruit
- Suspending bird feeders and cleaning up fallen seed
- Limiting outdoor composting to yard waste and plant trimmings
- Keeping barbeques clean
- Keeping vehicles free of food, with windows closed and doors locked
It’s also a good idea to regularly clean carts and bins, and freeze smelly waste until collection day.
If you’re unable to store your carts in a secure area like a garage, a wildlife-resistant enclosure can be used to secure solid waste and prevent wildlife from accessing attractants. Enclosures should be strong enough to withstand the weight and strength of a 600-pound animal. Please keep in mind that odours from solid waste can still attract wildlife, and you should continue to freeze food waste and keep carts clean to reduce smells.
Enforcing Local Bear Regulations
Property owners who allow wildlife to access attractants – even unintentionally – may receive a $500 fine.
The good news is that compliance is on an upward trend, indicating the City’s ongoing focus on public education and enforcement is making a difference. There were 164 calls about unsecured garbage last year, down from 188 in 2020. Warnings and tickets issued have also dropped considerably over the years, from 4,914 warnings and 450 tickets in 2017 to 923 warnings and 105 tickets in 2021.
However, unsecured garbage continues to be a problem, and the City’s Urban Wildlife staff have seen a recent increase in carts being left out at the curb the night before collection.
These and other bylaw infractions will be addressed this year with tried-and-true enforcement tactics such as neighbourhood patrols, responding to complaints, and compliance tools such as violation stickers, notices of violation, non-compliance letters and $500 tickets.
More community outreach is also planned, now that COVID restrictions are lifting. Watch for displays at civic events, including the City Nature Challenge event at Mundy Park on April 30 from 1 to 4 p.m.
A free Bear Smart 101 talk is also set for April 28 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Coquitlam Public Library’s City Centre branch (register at https://coquitlam.libnet.info/event/6409435).
Do Your Part – Be Bear Smart
It is up to everyone in Coquitlam to make sure their household or property is Bear Smart. Even if you’ve never seen a bear in your neighbourhood before doesn’t mean you couldn’t in the future. City staff are available to help provide tips and advice on how to make your property – and especially garbage – less attractive to bears.
For Bear Smart resources, videos and information about local bear regulations, visit www.coquitlam.ca/bearsmart.
To report wildlife attractants, improper storage of attractants or wildlife accessing attractants, call the City at 604-927-3500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To report a human-wildlife conflict or wildlife causing property damage, call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.