District of North Van gets tough on bear baiters

Residents can now be hit with $100 first offence fine for putting out garbage too early

No more Mr. Nice Bear.

The District of North Vancouver will soon be handing out $100 fines instead of warnings for people who leave their garbage bins at the curb outside permitted hours.

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Council voted unanimously Oct. 19 for a new regime of fines for residents who tempt bears into danger.

Under the new bylaw, residents will be dinged $100 for their first offence and $500 for subsequent offences. In the last two years, bylaw staff have issued warnings 4,234 times. Homeonwers may also be fined $250 for failing to manage bird feeders, tree fruit, compost or dirty barbecues if they are found to be attracting wildlife.

Coun. Megan Curren said she’d like to see the fine for a first offence raised to $500 – something supported by the North Shore Black Bear Society and 4,000 people who signed a petition calling for greater enforcement.

For the majority on council, warnings were too lenient and $500 was too harsh. But $100 was just right.

Coun. Jim Hanson argued the proposed fines were reasonable.

“What the community wants is for us to be safe for the bears so that the bears aren't dying, but also safe for people. There are a lot of residents of our community that don't want a lot of bears wandering around and feel intimidated by bears so I do believe these are reasonable measures in order to try to reduce attractants,” he said.

Council spent most of the discussion focused on how the new rules should be communicated to the general public. Currently, the plan is to mail a letter to every household in the district, but Coun. Lisa Muri called for a neon green sticker with the new rules to be placed on every single garbage tote.

“Certainly we want the community to know that we're making this change. We don't want anybody to be caught off guard,” she said. “The best way is stickering those cans because people have to look at them every single week.”

Coun. Betty Forbes questioned whether the district had enough staff power to make good on the threat of enforcement, especially the parts that don’t relate to garbage.

“A bylaw is only as good as its enforcement,” she said. “Maybe we shouldn't say things if we can't do them.”

Bylaw officers won’t be patrolling backyards looking for greasy barbecues and windfall fruit, said Gavin Joyce, general manager of engineering, parks and facilities for the district, but staff will be able to issue fines for them when there is a problem bear in the neighbourhood.

Only Mayor Mike Little suggested the changes were ultimately not needed – although he did vote in favour of them.

“I know that it's not a popular position at a time like this where we've had two bears shot in the community in the last a while, but the regime that we have in place has been very effective at reducing the numbers [of bears killed],” he said. “From the number of people who get warnings, 90 per cent of them don't have a recidivism issue that we have to respond to. Of the ones that get $100-tickets, 90 per cent of them don't have a second offence.”

Council must still vote on the changes one final time before they can take effect. That is expected to happen in November, at which time there will be a final month-long grace period before bylaw officers break out the ticket books.

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