Bears pay for human mistakes: conservation office

Increased calls to conservation about bears getting into trash have Central Island conservation officer Brittany Mueller frustrated.

A bear breaks into an unsecured residential garbage bin.

Increased calls to conservation about bears getting into trash have Central Island conservation officer Brittany Mueller frustrated.

“We’re getting daily reports of bears accessing garbage,” said Mueller.

“We’re constantly educating but the residents aren’t taking action.”

Mueller said that the Port Alberni conservation office has had 81 calls in September and 62 in October as of last week.

“They’re attracted to non-natural food sources,” she said. That includes garbage, pet food and fruit left to rot on the ground.

Mueller is in part frustrated because Port Alberni is a BearSmart community—the only one on Vancouver Island and one of only six in the entire province.

It’s also a community held up as a shining example of what a BearSmart community should look like—at least on the government level.

Speaking earlier this year, BearSmart BC consulting executive director Crystal  McMillan said that the city has become “a model that’s being used province wide as an example of how to implement BearSmart measures.”

That includes bylaws, fines and information pamphlets.

“Their bylaws say how to effectively manage your garbage to reduce conflict with bears, they have put out 7,000 BearSmart brochures in utility bills, there’s BearSmart information on their website and they’ve invested $1.5 million into a bear-resistant garbage system,” said McMillan.

The city’s solid waste bylaw lists fines of $100 each for not using animal-resistant hardware on their garbage bins and for keeping waste where it is accessible to wildlife.

“Every premise is responsible to prevent animals from accessing the garbage through proper management of the garbage and the container,” the bylaw reads.

“The city of Port Alberni provides animal resistant hardware for standard containers where requested by the residents for situations where animals are a nuisance.”

Provincial penalties are much harsher, said Mueller, adding that a fine of up $50,000 can be imposed for the “attraction of wildlife.”

The city’s bear-resistant bins are available from the public works yard and cost the same amount as the regular ones. If you already have a garbage bin, the city will install bear locks (pictured below) free of charge. The number to call is 250-720-2840.

According to Port Alberni’s BearSmart liaison Guy Cicon, the city ordered 3,542 unit of the bear resistant hardware several years ago and is still working off of that supply.

However, getting people to keep their bins locked until collection time is a challenge.

“Garbage needs to be secured at all times till the morning of garbage collection,” she said. City bylaws are less strict here; they simply state that the bear locks must be unlatched by 7 a.m. on collection day and re-latched within 12 hours.

On the upside, Mueller said that calls for the bear-resistant bins have increased lately.

“Now there’s a bit of a wait list,” Mueller said.

But there’s still no excuse not to make that call, Mueller said.

“Just because you’ve lived in Port Alberni for 10, 20 years and never had an issue isn’t a reason not to do your part,” she said.

When bears become food conditioned, there aren’t many option left for conservation officers.

According to the Ministry of Environment “translocation (or relocating the bear) is rarely successful as often these bears return to their original home territory or they become ‘problem’ bears in other communities.”

There’s also not enough suitable territory for bears to be relocated to—leading them to die either of starvation or of other bears’ attacks.

That, Mueller said, is why prevention is key.

“Otherwise, bears pay with their lives for human mistakes.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

twitter.com/AlberniNews

Just Posted

One hurt in Gertrude Street Bridge accident

Driver suffers medical emergency in Port Alberni crash

Motorcyclist caught driving 117 km/h on Beaver Creek Road

Port Alberni man was driving in a posted 50 km/h zone

Port Alberni soapbox derby has new track

Lower Argyle Street will be open to racers under six

UPDATED: Somass River closed to sockeye fishery

Early closure aimed at conserving Great Central Lake stock

Heat warning issued for Vancouver Island

Temperatures expected to cool down later this week

VIDEO: Visual recap of Vancouver Island MusicFest

Walk Off The Earth, Passenger, Arlo Guthrie among highlights

Trudeau’s youth council divided over Trans Mountain pipeline purchase

A letter signed by 16 past and present members was made public today, asking the federal government to reverse course

Hulk Hogan reinstated into wrestling Hall of Fame

Hogan had used racial slurs caught on video when talking about his daughter sleeping with a black man

Island wide crime spree leads to multiple charges against Cowichan Valley resident

Social Media and citizens of the North Island played a big role in solving the case.

‘Lava bomb’ through roof of tour boat injures 22 in Hawaii

“An explosion occurred near the shoreline hurling hot lava rocks towards the boat and injuring several passengers”

B.C. teen meets Nicolas Cage

Filming mob movie in downtown Vernon, B.C.

Critics claim Trump “defended a tyrant”

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

B.C. MLAs choose new children’s watchdog

Jennifer Charlesworth has worked in government, social services

Most Read