Intentionally or not, providing wildlife with food is illegal under B.C. provincial law.
That's a reminder Coquitlam environment manager Caresse Selk is hoping residents can grasp very soon as the fall season marks the beginning of hibernation preparation for bears in the Tri-City region.
As the creatures are fattening up for winter, Selk explains they'll be looking to take advantage of any food sources before the snow falls.
"This increase in feeding activity is called hyperphagia and helps bears survive without food for months while in their den," Selk explains in a news release.
"Guided by massive appetites and a keen sense of smell, bears find unsecured garbage carts, dumpsters and other food sources near homes and businesses to be an irresistible draw."
If food is left out on a property for wildlife to potentially consume, it could result in a fine upwards of $500 through the city’s solid waste management and wildlife and vector control bylaws.
Numbers provided to the Tri-City News show 58 of said bylaw fines have been issued to property owners among nearly 650 warnings.
In 2020, the city says 72 tickets and 1,039 warnings were handed out related to feeding bears or other wildlife.
Selk adds bears can pose a risk to public safety if they become accustomed to finding food in local neighbourhoods and could be destroyed by the Conservation Officer Service if conflicts arise.
"While bears are often just passing through an area and typically move on if they do not find food, they will return to the source of an easy meal again and again. Coquitlam residents and businesses can keep bears away from their property by making sure all attractants – including garbage, food scraps, pet food, fallen fruit, bird feeders and dirty barbecues – are out of reach of wildlife."
SEPTEMBER BEAR ENCOUNTER UPDATE
As of 1:30 p.m. today (Sept. 24), WildSafeBC has recorded 143 known bear sightings or encounters in Coquitlam throughout September thus far, including 55 involving garbage attractants.
This is according to its Wildlife Alert Reporting Program.
The organization also encourages residents to consider the following tips around bears:
- Keep your garbage in or secured until the day of collection. Garbage is the number one attractant cited in reports to the provincial hotline
- Manage your fruit trees
- Don’t let windfalls accumulate, and pick fruit as it ripens
- If you don’t want the fruit, consider...
- Accessing a fruit gleaning group in your community
- Washing the blossoms off in the spring so the fruit doesn’t set
- Replacing the tree with a non-fruit bearing variety
- Don’t put out bird feeders when bears are active
- A kilo of bird seed has approximately 8,000 calories and is a great reward for a hungry bear
- Keep your compost working properly with lots of brown materials and a regular schedule of turning
- If you have livestock or backyard chickens use a properly installed and maintained electric fence to keep bears and livestock apart
Tips from the City of Coquitlam on being bear smart can be found on its website.