Letter: 'Instagram effect' and lax approach to trash results in bear deaths

The Editor,

Re. "3 people arrested, 3 bears are killed" and "Bear that made itself at home is caught, destroyed" (The Tri-City News, Aug. 1).

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It has been a tragic few weeks for both our local black bears and Tri-Cities residents.

The headlines of these tragedies continue to shock and upset us every year while very little changes to prevent the next set of tragedies.

It is time we put bears' lives first in our communities as they are the ones paying for our inaction with their lives.

As residents, we have a duty to our local wildlife to remove all attractants from outside our homes because we have chosen to live and build in their habitat. Yes, we have bear-resistant waste bins but they are not bear-proof. And once a bear gets a reward from one, it will continue to seek out this source and have stronger sense of smell then that of bloodhounds to do so.

It should be made mandatory that all waste bins be kept in an enclosed garage or bear-proof enclosure until the morning of pickup. If it is not physically possible for this to occur because of the terrain of a home, then a community waste system should be put in place for these residents.

We also should be aware of the Instagram effect on our lives. Our desire to get the picture or video that will get likes puts us close to bears, making them too familiar with us and losing their natural fear of people.

Our cities need to enforce the bylaws we have in place to reduce wildlife conflicts and even strengthen them. Fines needs to be steep and swiftly issued.

Coquitlam has issued 800 warnings for unsecured garbage so far this year and 50 tickets. Does the city consider handing out 50 tickets in seven months for population of 140,000 a sufficient deterrent to wildlife conflicts? When the results are four bears killed in one week in Coquitlam alone, I would have to say no!

Coquitlam also does not consider the neighbourhoods around the Chines and Mundy Park as priority waste pick up areas so waste sits out on the curb until the middle to the end of the day in the hot sun, like a drive-through window for bears.

All three cities need to look again at when waste pickup is done. I know cost and time are factors but it would be prudent since pickup can’t happen everywhere in the city first thing in the morning. Perhaps bear-resistant clips can stay on the bins while on the curb and the driver unlatches them. What good are bear-resistant bins if they are not latched while they are full and accessible for most of a day?

In July, Port Moody council voted unanimously to “hold off on an additional expenditure of $675,000 to set up a pilot centralized solid waste bin system in Heritage Woods,” which was found to be very successful in the city of Canmore Alta. Port Moody council has spent many meetings speaking on the subject of the removal of the road right-of-way in Bert Flinn Park and its potential impact on the parks ecosystem but not one councillor put their hand up to ask one question about the pilot centralized solid waste bin system or the report by staff?

We are dealing with urban bears who are capitalizing on our lack of attention to our attractants, not just bears that leave the mountains to come down to look for a quick meal. This might mean we will need a whole new set of bear-conflict strategies to deal with this new type of resident bears.

I hope not to have this statement from a local resident become the new normal in our communities: “My family, including my daughters, just witnessed them shoot one of the cubs out of the tree. They're just wiping out the family of bears.”

We owe it to our black bears to change our ways collectively because we chose to build and live in their habitat so we must protect them from ourselves.

Lori Holdenried, Port Moody

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