The hope is, this summer will be a good news bears situation, unlike the summer of 2019 when 13 bears were killed in the Maple Ridge area.
Low salmon returns, poor berry crops and mother bears leaving their cubs earlier – all due to conditions in the environment could explain the high number of shootings, when during an average year, only three bears are shot.
Conservation Officer Service Sgt. Todd Hunter said efforts are underway to reduce that number this season.
“People should be managing their properties at all times of the year,” said Hunter.
He added that he’d still like every city on the north side of the Fraser River from Port Moody to become Mission to become an official Bear Smart Community.
Criteria for being named a Bear Smart Community include making a bear-human conflict management plan and creating a hazard assessment of the area. City documents must also be revised to reflect the plan while there also has to be a continuous education program.
As well, “bear-smart” bylaws must also be in place that ban feeding bears either out of intent, neglect or irresponsible management. Finally, the city has to develop a bear-proof garbage management system.
Hunter said that remains one of the larger challenges facing Maple Ridge, which uses several private garbage companies to haul household waste from curbside, instead of a single hauler. Residents in 2018, rejected going to a city-run garbage collection service.
The plebiscite that was conducted in tandem with the Oct. 20, 2018 civic election asked people if they would be willing to pay $270 annually for curbside pickup by a municipally run system. But only 42 per cent supported that.
“That is one of the main things that’s really kind of a contentious issue with the Conservation Officer Service. It makes it very challenging for us,” Hunter said.
He said the Conservation Officer Service was hoping voters would support a single collection system so garbage cans are all put out at the same time.
“We were hoping for a win … where the onus would be on the city for scheduled pickup. And we would have a lot more pull in going to the city … and encouraging different routes, pickup times and all that type of stuff that we could that we have with other communities that are on a scheduled pickup,” Hunter said.
But other steps can be taken to adjust for that, he added.
Hunter said he’d like to see Maple Ridge become a Bear Smart city this year.
“What we really need is the support of the community. It requires everyone doing their part.”
The Conservation Officer Service is working with the City of Maple Ridge and Maple Ridge Bears, the residents’ group created last year to reduce the number of bears shot.
While people should ensure there’s nothing to attract bears at any time of the year, such fruit, bird feeders, barbecues, pet food or garbage, they also should discourage bears from hanging around residential areas.
Hunter said that bears that are loitering in residential areas are doing so to show their dominance towards people. Unless a bear is within 10 metres of a forested area, it should be safely discouraged from staying.
“It’s not normal. The best thing is not to let them get comfortable,” Hunter said.
“You should be making every effort to discourage the bear from remaining there, that you can do, safely.”