Be bear aware: the bruins are waking up

The bears are starting to wake up from the winter hibernation so it
The bears are starting to wake up from the winter hibernation so it's best not to leave garbage, bird seed or attractants out, experts say.
— image credit: PHILIP WARBURTON

Bears that denned in woods close to Tri-City residential areas are starting to come out of hibernation, prompting reminders for increased vigilance in securing garbage, bird seed and other attractants that will draw them to our streets.

There have been bear sightings in the Mundy Park area of Coquitlam in recent days and the city’s urban wildlife coordinator is concerned that the hungry bruins will develop bad habits if residents don’t become more proactive immediately.

“People are caught unaware that bears are starting to wake up and they can be careless with all their attractants,” said Drake Stephens, noting that in one case, a bird feeder attracted the attention of a black bear and was quickly cleaned out.

Stephens warned that residents will be slapped with warning letters — and, potentially, $500 fines — if they don’t secure their trash or they leave other bear food out, such as pet food. In most cases, a complaint prompts Stephens to check on a home but the city will also be patrolling neighbourhoods for improperly secured garbage as spring gets underway.

Still, people may not be aware that bird feeders are also a problem and Drake advises people to bring them indoors now. “There’s no snow on the ground and birds aren’t desperate for bird seed,” he said.

Other animals, such as rodents, are also attracted to bird seed, and they, in turn, can attract the coyotes.

There haven’t been any major bear complaints yet, he said, and the bears that have been seen are likely males or single females because females with cubs aren’t likely to emerge from dens for another couple of weeks. When they do heed nature’s alarm clock, the bears will be hungry, Stephens said, because they will have lost as much as 40% of their body mass over the winter.

“Right now, let’s give those bears a chance to eat natural food and not get into a bad habit and rely on human carelessness.”

A similar message is being touted in Port Coquitlam, where a local resident is keeping track of sightings. Philip Warburton (see his letter on page A11) said bruins have been seen in the Greenmount Avenue area, near the PoCo cemetery, as well as in Minnekhada Regional Park, near the lodge and another near the area of Mars Street and Victoria Drive.

“The biggest thing is once they do come to your house [looking for food] and they know, they will come back,” he said, noting that a yard free of attractants and trash tucked away with bear-proof locks on the bins will not likely get the attention of a wandering bear family.

“If we do manage our stuff, there is no reason for them to come to your house,” Warburton said. “It’s part of the responsibility we have living in an interface area.”


Last year, 11 bears were destroyed for getting into garbage and becoming a safety risk, one was killed by a car, nine were chased out of urban areas by hazing and two cubs got sent to Critter Care for rehabilitation and return to the wild.

The good news is that this past winter, all bears in the area went into hibernation, as evidenced by the lack of sightings after November.

To keep bears from coming to your neighbourhood for a quick meal:

• remove bird feeders;

• keep pet food inside;

• keep garbage out of reach;

• use Green Cans correctly, putting them out only on the morning of pickup;

• compost responsibly;

• keep freezers indoors but, if they’re outside (e.g., in a carport), keep them locked.

More information is available here.


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