TWO or three bears in the Lynn Valley area are up snacking past their bedtimes, and you could be fined $250 if they're caught eating from your cookie jar.
Bears were seen last week wandering through the residential area near 27th Street and Mountain Highway in North Vancouver.
Contrary to popular belief, not all bears are currently hibernating, especially not those who can drop in for a quick nibble at the birdfeeders and garbage cans of their neighbours.
"If they can obtain food, they won't go into hibernation," said North Shore Black Bear Network president Tony Webb.
This year, the NSBBN lobbied for an amendment to the Wildlife Act under section 33.1.2, which now states that any person who attracts a bear, even unwittingly, can be fined $250.
Residents must be more mindful of the tremendous smelling powers of their furry fellow constituents. Although the scent of garbage isn't as strong to us in winter, a bear's sense of smell is seven times more sensitive than a bloodhound's. "They're a nose on four legs," said Webb.
Bears who become habituated (addicted) to human waste must be tagged and relocated because they become territorial over their feeding area and pose a threat to residents.
However, relocated bears from the North Shore have made their way back from areas as far as the Coquihalla region.
"They have built in GPS," said Webb. A bear that instinctively comes back to its feeding area is not usually relocated again once conservation officers know that it will return. When the tagged bears are found in the same area, they are destroyed, said Webb.
Bears cannot be relocated at this time of year because they are unable to find a den in the snow, further increasing the pressure on residents to be more bear aware.
The bears in question likely already have a den somewhere near Lynn Canyon, where they will only go down for the winter if the open buffet in peoples' backyards closes down.
Ultimately, the fate of the bears lies in the hands of residents.
Bear-proofing your house is the only way to ensure that bears do not become habituated and likely killed. If a bear smells something but repeatedly cannot access it - like a bird-feeder that is too high or a garbage can that is locked - it will give up and go away.
A bear-resistant garbage container from the District of North Vancouver costs $100.
This year, four bears entered houses on the North Shore and were immediately destroyed. "We don't want that to happen," said Webb.
Residents should not put garbage out until collection day and keep strong smelling things like fish heads and meat in the fridge until pickup. Bears have been known to hone in on fish heads from more than two blocks away, said Webb.
Washing recyclables, as well as compost material such as eggshells is also effective.
"People don't understand the strength of smell. That's how he makes his living," said Webb.
B.C. Conservation Officer Service did not return calls to press time, but Webb estimated 11 black bears were killed and roughly 20 were relocated in the province this year. Webb estimates there are 50 bears living on the North Shore.
"Treat bears like motorcars. They can kill you if you don't understand them," said Webb.
Compared to the 60,000 who are injured and 500 people who are killed by car accidents in B.C. every year, three people in B.C. were injured by bears this year. There is no recorded incidence of a person hurt by a bear on the North Shore, said Webb.
For more information, visit env.gov. bc.ca/cos/info/bearaware/prevent_ problems.html. Report a dangerous bear at 1-800-663-9453.