By Marcy Potter, Director of Operations and Membership
Volunteers and I joined the City of Coquitlam staff to distribute bear information to targeted communities last weekend. Daily sightings of bears were being reported, and garbage was the culprit. The neighbourhood we focused on was a few blocks from where a girl was involved in a violent conflict this summer (that bear was a habituated mother with cubs, and was killed).
We needed to talk to residents about leaving garbage out. We split up in to groups, and as I was raising my hand to knock on my first door, I heard “bear!”
A large black bear was actively digging through garbage at the house, and then moved on next door where compost was left out. I followed him, took pictures, and called the staff member for the city, as the bear moved on to another part of the neighborhood. The staff had to collect evidence and talk to the people leaving garbage out.
The City of Coquitlam has given out over 200 tickets this yearat $500 each. I have to praise the City of Coquitlam for being so proactive about trying to stop these conflicts, and implementing serious fines. Unfortunately, not everyone is listening or cares. It’s a frustrating job.
As we moved from house to house, I heard many stories of how this neighbor or that neighbor was allegedly responsible. We also heard how some neighbours have tried talking to them those leaving out attractants no avail. One of the houses the bear was eating at was an empty house up for sale. The owners left garbage out three weeks ago when they left, didn’t set it out for pick up, and the bear was coming back for it. A few of the neighbors even called the realty company with no response.
Halfway through that day, he came out again! He was hazed (yelled at) and he took off.
We met very scared people: one man was just about to take a walk with his baby and dog, but turned around to go the opposite way, unable to go to the local park; an elderly woman who had to wait inside her house and be late for work a few mornings as the bear was sitting outside her front door on the lawn; another woman who said she walked outside one day and the bear came around the corner and they practically collided with each other; one homeowner was fixing his fence a bear had smashed when we approached him; and one man who no longer goes out for a run, and bought a treadmill. Lifestyles have had to change, even if some people don’t think it’s a problem. It’s a problem.
As we continued house to house, all I kept thinking is this bear, a majestic beautiful creature, will be dead soon. And it’s not even his fault. A smorgasbord of food was left out for him consistently, and he needs to fatten up for winter. Why wouldn’t he take advantage of that? Now he might become habituated to humans, and as they say “a fed bear is a dead bear.” It deeply upset me to think this guy won’t last too much longer, for foraging any way he can.
The Fur-Bearers has repeated over and over and over, as has this city, and every other group concerned with the well-being of wildlife. You cannot feed wildlife. You cannot leave garbage or attractants out. Because some of these people did, they may have signed the death warrant for this bear.