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Avoid the bin-diving bruins

A bear wanders in daylight hours through the back of a townhouse complex on Doyle Road. - Chris Thompson/Special to the Mirror
A bear wanders in daylight hours through the back of a townhouse complex on Doyle Road.
— image credit: Chris Thompson/Special to the Mirror

Forget about the dog days of summer, local conservation officers are still dealing with bears – a lot of bears.

“So far, since April 1, we’ve received 211 calls about black bears,” says Steve Petrovic, “and that’s just for Campbell River.”

Locally-based conservation officers cover the whole North Island where black bear populations are thriving, unless they get a taste for garbage.

When bears find an easy source of protein from leftover meat, fish and even used diapers, they keep coming back for more. And when that frequently happens, conservation officers are called in to trap and dispatch the “problem bear.”

That’s what happened near the end of June to a male black bear that was “bin diving” in garbage cans between Doyle and O’Leary roads, located near the Campbell River and Quinsam rivers.

“There are a lot of families and kids in this neighbourhood…it was a serious problem,” says Chris Thompson.

Thompson and his family reside in a townhouse complex on Doyle. It’s mostly young families renting units that don’t have much space for basic storage never mind garbage.

As a result, table scraps and dirty diapers went into the trash and then outside. Thompson says the complex has no “bear proof” commercial bin to deposit trash and the owner/manager does not intend to get one.

“We have babies and diapers, where are we supposed to store this stuff? In the laundry room where we have our clean clothes and is basically our only storage space?” he says.

When the bear got a taste for easy pickings, it kept returning – at all hours of the day and was even seen drinking out of children’s wading pools.  Fearing for their safety, residents started calling conservation officers.

Starting in May, Petrovic says they received 13 complaints from Doyle Road residents. Finally, near the end of June, conservation officers set up a culvert trap on nearby O’Leary.

“The bear was caught and destroyed,” notes Petrovic.

But that didn’t end the problem. A sow and her two cubs continue to skirt the properties on the green space behind the complex, and Thompson says they’re still keeping kids out of the yards.

Petrovic has advised the residents to haze the bears and make loud noises to scare them off. It may have worked because Thompson reports he hasn’t seen the cubs for several days.

As well, after the male bear got a taste for used diapers, some people started working together to do dump runs in-between garbage pick-ups.

Both Petrovic and Thompson said a good solution for the townhouse complex would be a commercial waste disposal bin, but if that’s not coming it’s up to residents to properly dispose of garbage.

If people keep putting out attractants for bears, conservation officers have the authority to levy $345 fines or fines of $575 for failing to abide by a Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order.

Here’s what Petrovic suggests to keep bears away:

  • Put out your garbage only on the morning of pick-up, not the night before.
  • Freeze meat and fish scraps, then dispose of them on garbage day, and do not put these items in a compost.
  • Report all negative interactions with wildlife by calling 1-877-952-7277.
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