“People enjoy seeing the bears, but we’re not a zoo. They’ve got to be relocated before they become habituated,” said Port Alice resident Rose Klein Beekman. (BP file photo)

“People enjoy seeing the bears, but we’re not a zoo. They’ve got to be relocated before they become habituated,” said Port Alice resident Rose Klein Beekman. (BP file photo)

Bears in Port Alice inspiring online ruckus and munching through garbage

It’s a tale as old as, well, garbage bins

A couple of black bears have been making a mess of Port Alice garbage bins and causing a ruckus on the community’s social media pages.

Two bears have been roaming through the village, munching on fruit and garbage as they prepare to hibernate. One dumpster gets rifled through repeatedly, and resident Mark Lucas has been sharing images of it each morning. “Another beautiful morning in Port Alice,” he captioned one image sarcastically. The comments come fast and sassy.

“You just need people who are not stupid and don’t give a shit. Go through and see if you can find out who it is [and] fine them heavy after they have cleaned up the mess,” wrote Trudy Laing. To which Joel Johnson Jr. commented that the bears should be shot if it’s not going to stay in the wild. That provoked a long response from Audrey Clark-Surtees, who said, “If humans were not such pigs and slobs the bears would not have anything to destroy and spread around and eat. People are too dam [sic] lazy to put their garbage away in a secure manor [sic].”

The exchange went on from there, but suffice it to say, Port Alicers have a lot of opinions about bears, garbage, food and their neighbours.

Mayor Kevin Cameron, who doesn’t pay too much attention to Facebook, said bear activity isn’t much higher than previous years, but it’s still a concern.

On regular calls with the Conservation Officer Service, advice is the same as it’s ever been: secure garbage and harvest fruit from the trees so they don’t attract bears. When bears discover human food, they quickly learn it’s a more efficient source of calories than the berries and fish they’re used to.

“When the poor bears that get into the garbage, it’s killing them. They’re getting into bones that don’t digest in their stomachs, and they end up eating the plastic — you can see that in their scat,” said long time Port Alice resident Rose Klein Beekman.

“They’re quite smart about garbage. They can take a mayonnaise jar put their paw on it and unscrew it and lick out the contents, but sometimes it gets stuck on their tongue and then what’s the poor bear going to do? The same thing with tin cans, they’ll lick them out and there’s sharp edges so they get cuts, etc.,” she added.

What might be new this year is the level of attractable nuisances, Cameron said. It might be people who forget to replace the latch on the dumpster lid. It could be folks who have moved to town from larger places where bears exist in children’s rhymes, not in one’s carport destroying garbage pails.

”I know it’s tough, but if it means putting [garbage bins] in your basement or some other place where bears can’t smell it, that might be what needs to happen,” he said.

It can be awkward when the fruit’s not ripe at the same time the bears want to eat it, but if it’s leading to conflict or property damage, it needs to be dealt with.

Asked if he would advocate for bylaw fines, Cameron said they have the power to issue fines if they want to go so far, but would prefer to educate instead.

Bears who are comfortable around people can pose a risk, but “I don’t know of a bear attack on humans since I’ve been here. We need to be mindful of them, we have been coexisting with bears for hundreds of years,” he said.

Klein Beekman is interested in the Bear Smart certification Port Hardy recently attained, and figures if enough interested people could get together they could get a program like that going in conjunction with the Village of Port Alice staff.

“If a Port Hardy can do it, I don’t see why a community of five-times less population can’t attain it. People in our village really care about the bears, they just don’t always know how to co-exist.”

READ MORE: Port Hardy earns Bear Smart certification

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