Coquitlam gets tough on garbage scofflaws

Sixty fines already handed out for leaving garbage out for bears to get at

Dozens of $500 fines have been handed out to Coquitlam residents since January and, as bear season heats up, more could be slapped on garbage scofflaws who set their waste out earlier than the law allows.

Coquitlam's earning of Bear Smart status this year hasn't appeared to slow efforts to make people aware of the consequences of irresponsible bear attractant management.

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Julie Kanya, the city's urban wildlife co-ordinator, said patrols are going out to neighbourhoods with garbage issues and signs are going up to alert property owners of bear activity. As well, a new sticker has been developed that will be pasted on trash and green carts that are set out early, disobeying city bylaws.

"The sticker lets them know they made an error," Kanya said, noting that repeat offenders could be subject to a $500 fine.

Wildlife attractant sticker

So far, 60 tickets have been issued since January, more than double the 26 for the same period last year.

As well, there have been 300 requests for service to conservation officers, up from 200 in 2016.

TWICE AS MANY TICKETS

"We've issued twice as many tickets this year with 100 more call-outs. The awareness is heightened because of the enforcement we did last year," Kanya noted, speculating that neighbours are calling in complaints when they see bear activity or someone leaving their garbage out.

"It only takes one [open green waste and garbage cart] and the bear just keeps coming back."

Bear
A bear opens up a Coquitlam garbage cart to get at food waste. - Teri Towner

Another problem is people leaving food waste in their garbage cart, a problem that generated concerns from Coun. Teri Towner on Facebook when she posted photos and a video of a bear rooting through a garbage cart.

(Food waste should go into the green waste card, which is collected first, with food waste frozen if possible, and the carts should be kept clean to reduce the smell.)

So far, four neighbourhoods have been cited as hotbeds of bear complaints: Westwood Plateau, Burke Mountain, Chineside and Mundy Park have all had recent bear activity, according to WildsafeBC.com.

Kanya said she will be putting up signs in those neighbourhoods to heighten awareness but residents should be aware that bears move quickly in and out of neighbourhoods.

"All of Coquitlam is bear area," she said.

Kanya is also pleased to see supporters back city efforts on social media and in Tri-City News letters to the editor.

"It's really nice to get that support. Definitely people are using the city as a resource to keep it safer for neighbourhoods and safer for bears as well."

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