Conservation officers and police have cordoned off a Port Moody neighbourhood along Parkside Drive as they track five black bears alleged to have become habituated to human garbage.
The mother black bear and its three cubs had been found going home-to-home on Heritage Mountain, dragging garbage out of people’s bins onto the green belts dividing the development, and in at least one case, entered someone’s open garage, according to conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter.
When conservation officers arrived around 11 a.m. Thursday, they found another adult bear, unrelated to the family that had also become habituated to humans.
Hunter said when he other conservation officers arrived, they first tranquilized what they think was an adult male bear. But when, following their normal protocol, they went to run the other bears up trees, the family broke apart and scattered.
Brenda Ramsay told The Tri-City News she was awakened at around 11 a.m., a few hours after she returned from a night shift as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital, by what sounded like a gunshot.
Ramsay said a family of bears had run into her yard, one cub climbing a tree, another running into the forest with the mother and a third into the adjacent green space.
“My family, including my daughters, just witnessed them shoot one of the cubs out of the tree,” she said. “They're just wiping out the family of bears.”
When The Tri-City News arrived in the neighbourhood, multiple Port Moody Police units were on hand in addition to several conservation officers. Residents were told to stay indoors and, when a garbage truck arrived around 2 p.m., it was directed to a street away from the area where the hunt for the bears continued.
“All of our garbage for the entire neighbourhood is still sitting out there not being picked up,” said Ramsay. “It has to be out by 7 a.m. but usually it's still sitting there in the afternoon.”
By 2 p.m, the officers had placed the one tranquilized cub in a bear trap so that the mother would come and try to collect them. The other two were still up a tree and the Hunter said officers were working to immobilize them with a dart gun.
“These types of situations are very dangerous,” Hunter told The Tri-City News. “We had them by the trees and generally we can get them to go up, but these bears are so conditioned and habituated to people that they won’t submit.”
The trouble stems from garbage, something made more difficult when bins are put out on the street at regular intervals because bears will learn the pattern and show up between the time trash bins are put out and picked up.
“It's one of those things, again, where we need everybody to do their part,” he said. “I mean, this is intermittent green belt on top of a mountain. We’re up quite high. That comes with an added responsibility to ensure that you do everything that you can.”
Anecdotally, Hunter says the number of bear sighting calls has been quite a bit higher this July in the Tri-Cities.
“In the last five years since I’ve supervised, generally we see a lull at this time of year but we’re seeing a steady progression of conflicts,” he said.
More to come…