WITH bears waking from winter slumbers to the scent of spring garbage, police and wildlife experts are reminding residents to take every possible precaution to stay safe.
“We can’t seem to get people to fully understand that a bear sees through its nose,” said Tony Webb, chair of the North Shore Black Bear Network.
Webb listed birdfeeders, dog food, and barbecues as bear attractants, but added that garbage is still the usual suspect.
“Eighty per cent of the bear attractants are through residential mishandled garbage,” he said.
As urban agriculture gains in popularity, Webb advised beekeepers and backyard farmers to watch out for bears.
“The only way to deter it in a bear-proof manner is to put an electric fence around the hive,” Webb said, adding that backyard chickens can also attract bears.
Putting a bee hive on the roof may also work, depending on the house.
“If it’s a wooden building, like two or three storeys high . . . the bear’ll go straight up there. He’ll climb the side of the house.”
Webb was alerted to the problem when a hornet’s nest in his garden was eaten by a bear.
“Some of the beekeepers think that they’ll put another hive there, and of course the bear will come back,” Webb said. “If they’ve obtained food, they’ll come back two or three times.”
Finding a consistent source of food leads to the bear becoming habituated, according to Webb.
“We had, I think, 12 bears killed last year, and we had about the same the previous year and we want to try and get that down because they’re all bears that have been habituated.”
Residents should close doors and be careful with outdoor fridges that use plastic which contains formaldehyde.
“That breaks down and lets off formic acid and the bears think ‘That’s an ant’s nest, let’s go for it.’”
If a resident comes face to face with a bear, Webb advises trying not to corner the animal.
“Most attacks are made by bears when they’re put into the defensive mode,” he said.
If a bear wanders into your home, experts advise opening as many windows and doors as possible to leave the bear an escape path.
Progress on the issue is steady, according to Webb.
“We’ve been at this for 12 years now, and we’re slowly getting there. What we’re really trying to do is change a culture,” Webb said.
District of North Vancouver residents can face a $100 fine for bringing their garbage to the curb earlier than 5:30 a.m. on collection day.
Homeowners are reminded to regularly clean their garbage cans and freeze any trash with a particularly pungent odour.
The District of West Vancouver has a policy of issuing two warnings before levelling a $100 fine on offenders who bring their garbage to the curb before 5 a.m. Failure to properly enclose wildlife attractants can result in a $300 fine.
City of North Vancouver residents can face fines of as much as $120 if their garbage cans aren’t sanitary or are improperly secured.
Failure to clean up an attractant can also result in daily fines of $150 from the province until the attractant has been cleaned up.
If you encounter a bear and it appears to be threatening, call a B.C. conservation officer at 1-877-952-7277.