Port Coquitlam is cracking down on garbage-related infractions on the city's south side after the sixth bear of the year was recently destroyed.
For the first time, enforcement officers are handing out warnings and $150 fines to people living on PoCo's south side who leave their garbage out as well as the north because of problems with bears eating garbage.
"This is huge, we have to react very quickly to this," said Dan Scoones, the city's manager of bylaw services.
While all of Port Coquitlam is expected to follow bear regulations, areas of particular concern are the Cedar Drive area on the north side and homes near Colony Farm and along the Coquitlam River, where bears have been knocking over garbage cans and getting into garages.
Night patrols will be scouring Cedar Drive because people have been setting their garbage out early, Scoones said, and officers will be visiting homes on the south side if garbage and food scraps are being left outside. All wildlife attractants, including beverage containers and food scraps, must be stored indoors or kept in a cart locked up with a special Critterguard or other city-approved locking device.
"We're telling people everywhere across town it's time to lock it up," Scoones said.
He said he was alerted to the seriousness of the situation about two weeks ago when a bear cub was treed in a neighbourhood near Westwood Street, south of Lincoln Avenue. Conservation officers informed him that bears were fanning out across the city and getting into garages. Five had been shot, up from the one the city recorded in mid-August, Scoones said, prompting the city to step up enforcement.
Now, a city wide alert is being put out so the problem doesn't spread further.
"We live in bear country. Source control is the only proven strategy for keeping bears out. Other strategies have been tested and proven to not work, so it's the one we're going with."
This has been the worst year for bear deaths in the city in recent memory. Last year, only one bear had to be destroyed because it was habituated to human garbage. So far 13 bears have had to be destroyed in the Tri-Cities, up from 11 last year.
In its press release, the city noted bears that become used to eating garbage can become aggressive but relocating isn't the answer because half of relocated bears return to their old feeding grounds.
Numbers of bear sightings are expected to grow in the next few weeks as bears look for food to fatten up before hibernation in November and December.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO KEEP BEARS AWAY
Secure and lock up all potential food sources, including food scraps and food-soiled papers in the green cart, beverage containers, barbecue grills, compost piles, pet food, bird feed, diapers, grease barrels, petroleum and chemical products.
Pick all ripe fruit and vegetables.
Ensure beehives and bird feeders are inaccessible to wildlife.
Ensure outdoor refrigerators or freezers are locked or inaccessible to wildlife.
Set out garbage between 5:30 and 7:30 a.m. on collection days.
For more information, visit www.portcoquitlam.ca/bears or call 604-927-5446.
Report bear sightings to the Provincial Conservation Officer Services 24-hour toll-free line at 1-877-952-8277.
BEAR DEATHS SO FAR IN 2011 IN THE TRI-CITIES
CITY GARBAGE-RELATED INJURIES/MVA
Port Coquitlam 6 0
Coquitlam 4 2
Port Moody 0 0
Anmore 1 1
Total bears destroyed 2011 in Tri-Cities: 14