Conservation officers issue warning following increase in bear sightings

Conservation officers are warning North Shore residents to think before they leave doors and windows open in the heat after recording a high number of calls for bears attracted to residential areas by food and garbage in recent days.

Over the past month, “We’ve had a very high number of calls come in” in North Vancouver and West Vancouver, said conservation officer Jillian Bjarnason. “The majority of calls are attractant related.”

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Two more bears were destroyed by conservation officers on the North Shore in July, bringing the total to nine so far this year, including four in North Vancouver and five in West Vancouver.

The most recent bear to be destroyed was shot in the British Properties by a conservation officer after breaking into an outdoor porch/pantry area to access food July 31. The young bear “broke the sliding door” to get inside, said Bjarnason, and had been the subject of multiple reports in the neighbourhood.

Two weeks prior to that, conservation officers destroyed a three-year-old bear that had become habituated to garbage in Lynn Canyon Park. The bear had been accessing garbage that people had left outside of the actual garbage containers, said Bjarnason, adding it was difficult for conservation officers to scare off, and was often seen on the trails. Conservation officers had concerns about public safety because it is such a highly used area, she said.

In July, conservation officers logged 184 calls for bears in North Vancouver compared to 45 calls in June while West Vancouver logged 136 bear calls in July, plus 131 in June, said Bjarnason.

A month ago, two black bears were destroyed over the Canada Day weekend after getting into conflicts with people.

In one case, a bear that had been hanging around people at Rice Lake attempting to get food from backpacks charged a conservation officer who saw it sneaking up on two picnickers from behind.

Another bear was destroyed after entering the kitchen of a home in Lynn Valley to get food.

Bjarnason said conservation officers recommend residents freeze their garbage – particularly anything smelly likely to attract bears – before placing it in locking garbage containers on pickup day.

Picking ripe fruit from fruit trees is also key, she said, noting bears appear to have been attracted to fruit trees in West Vancouver.

The District of North Vancouver has handed out 26 $100 tickets this year to residents who ignore rules on when and how to put out their garbage. District staff have also handed out 1,000 warning letters and public education materials to residents who put their garbage containers out too early in the morning or leave them out overnight.

In West Vancouver, Horseshoe Bay has been one problem area for bear attractants this year, said Donna Powers, district spokeswoman. The municipality also changed garbage collection times in the Cypress Park neighbourhood in response to bear concerns. So far, 11 tickets and seven warnings have been handed out to residents who don’t follow the rules on garbage containment and collection. Tickets in West Vancouver range from $100 up to $300.

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