District to fix garbage bylaw to protect bears

Change will see garbage put out on the morning of collection in an effort to keep bears from feeding on refuse

Maple Ridge is looking to change its policy surrounding garbage collection in an effort to reduce the number of bear incidents in residential areas.

Dan Mikolay, Wildsafe B.C. coordinator, is asking the District of Maple Ridge to adjust its bylaw so that residents will only be allowed to put their garbage out the morning of collection day.

Currently, people can put their garbage out at 10 p.m. the night before.

Mikolay said once a bear becomes habituated to garbage, the only real option is to have it put down.

He said changing the bylaw will be another step forward in eliminating that option.

“We find that some people may not call initially when they first spot a bear because their perception is that it will be killed,” he said. “But that’s not the case. We’re trying to remove the attractants in the area so that bears don’t become habituated. We’re trying to educate the residents so it doesn’t, unfortunately, get too late to break the habit.”

Wildsafe B.C. is formerly the Bear Aware program, now in its second year in Maple Ridge.

Signage, public outreach programs and collaboration with the local conservation officers to map out sightings have all contributed to reduce the number bears that have had to be killed in the area.

In 2011, 15 bears were put down.

Just two were last year, the first of the program.

Mikolay said there is still work to be done.

In the first six months of 2013, there have been 250 reported bear sightings in Maple Ridge, 69 of which were a result of garbage.

He also noted that barbecue grease, along with bird feeders are attractants.

“One kilo of bird food has the equivalent of 8,000 calories, or two days worth of food for a bear.”

Mikolay said once September rolls around, bears begin increasing their intake to 20,000 calories a day, so fruit trees become the main source of attraction.

“We really are just trying to keep the wildlife wild and the people safe.”

Maple Ridge News