A cute video of bears playing in a back yard has exposed an ongoing issue of North Island bears becoming increasingly habituated to garbage.
“We have all seen the video, we see how cute these cubs are and it’s adorable,” said Roberts, adding “it’s sickening to know these animals are going to have to be destroyed.”
Roberts said the bears are becoming habituated to garbage and stated that “once they start eating garbage they don’t stop and will come back.” She continued to note, “my main concern is people properly securing their garbage. People are just not doing it and that brings bears into the neighbourhood.”
Roberts said she has even seen the mother and her cubs walking around the neighbourhood in the middle of the day and been advised by conservation to scare the bears away with loud noises. “My neighbour left fish carcasses in her backyard and the bear got into those and I went out and banged pots and pans and she ran.”
The situation on Upper Carnarvon is not an isolated incident. “It’s disheartening when we have to keep essentially repeating our selves,” said Steve Petrovcic, Conservation Officer for the North Island Zone.
Since April 1 2017, conservation has received 81 black bear-human conflict calls on the North Island spanning from Hyde Creek north. Petrovcic stressed that 77 per cent of those calls were specific to black bears accessing unnatural food sources, directly linked to domestic garbage.
Pretrovcic said while other attractants like dirty barbecues, out door freezers, fish or meat in a person’s compost, poor husbandry practices, fruit trees and dirty recycling containers can draw a bear into a person’s yard, the number one source of the problem is domestic garbage.
“Garbage can only go out or be accessible the morning of garbage day and not the night before,” said Petrovcic, adding “garbage needs to be stored in a secure structure such as a fully enclosed shed or garage.”
Petrovcic stressed that a person needs to either remove the bear attractant or remove access to the attractant.
Once a bear begins to access unnatural food sources, the bear becomes more comfortable and is essentially less stressed when out in amongst humans and human structures.
“The bear’s behaviour evolves to the point where it now has the understanding that those garbage cans belong to him or her,” said Pretovcic noting the extreme case of concern would be when a person or a pet gets between that bear and the food source.
He said because this is a recipe for a potential attack a garbage habituated bear presents a safety concern and is not a candidate for relocation.
The District of Port Hardy is currently conducting an additional garbage pick up service survey, as part of an effort to become a Bear Smart Community, which is a program that helps communities to adopt strategies to decrease human-bear conflicts.
The survey is seeking input from the residents of Port Hardy to see if there is a desire to include weekly garbage service during Bear Season (May 1-September 30) to reduce the requirement to store garbage.
The cost of the additional service would be $24.00 per annum per dwelling.
“It just takes one person on the street to belittle the efforts of everyone else, and that’s the frustrating part for the neighbours and the conservation service – we need everyone working together to keep both people and bears safe,” said Petrovcic.
He noted that conservation has spoken with residents in Upper Carnarvon but “it still seems to fall on deaf ears,” and that “it is extremely frustrating for officers when we know the solution: secure your garbage.”
Roberts said she thinks more needs to be done by the district to change behaviours. “I just wish people would start doing their part,” she said, adding “It’s our fault. It’s not the animals fault they are only doing what they know.”
There is a fine of $230 dollars, under section 33.1(2) of the Wildlife Act, for people who attract dangerous wildlife to land or premises.
Petrovcic urges anyone who spots unsecured garbage that could be a bear attractant to report the situation to the Conservation Officer Call Centre at 1-877-952-7277.