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Make your home (and community) less delicious for bears

Conservation Officers Nicole Caithness and Hilary Demerais out on “bear awareness patrol” earlier this week with City Bylaw Officers Matt Hammond and Bryan Dunnett. City of Prince George photo

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”

If you have not made your home “bear-proof,” it could be a bear.

It could also be staff from City of Prince George Bylaw Services and the BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) popping by to make sure bears are not tempted to pay your home a visit.

For the next four weeks, Bylaw Officers and conservation officers are going door-to-door in Prince George to help educate residents about how to keep their yards free of food sources for wildlife – particularly bears. In recent years, bears have been gorging themselves on calorie-rich garbage and other unnatural food sources in Prince George in an attempt to fatten up for hibernation.

Watch a video about this initiative on the City YouTube channel.

This year is shaping up to be one of the worst years ever for bear/human interactions in Prince George. Since April 1, about the time bears begin leaving their den in the spring, the COS has received more than 1300 reports of problematic bears in the community – more than 500 in the month of September alone. In comparison, the COS received about 900 such calls in all of 2019.

The consequences of providing bears with easy access to unnatural food sources are obvious: more bears and more bears needing to be put down. Bears can obtain, in one garbage cart, the same amount of nutrients they can obtain in almost an entire day of foraging in the wild and well-fed sows produce more cubs. Food that is more available means bears are more tolerant of other bears and of humans – which is bad for bears and bad for people.

During their “bear awareness patrols,” Bylaw Officers will be visiting residents in neighbourhoods scheduled to have their garbage collected the following day. Many homeowners are unaware that according to City bylaw, residents are not to put out their garbage carts until 4:00am on the day they are scheduled to have their garbage collected or be subject to a $300 fine. The City’s Property Maintenance Bylaw also states that residents who keep wildlife attractants, including birdfeeders and fruit trees, in a way that they are accessible to wildlife may be subject to a $200 fine.

Here are some tips on how residents can “bear-proof” their homes, including:

  • Storing garbage carts inside structures such as garages and sheds whenever possible. If this is not possible, secure the lids of the carts using rope, bungee cord, and other devices such as a ratchet strap.
  • Not growing fruit-bearing trees or plants on your property and regularly remove any ripe fruit and vegetables.
  • Cleaning outdoor barbecues and grease traps regularly.
  • Feeding pets indoors and remove bird feeders during the spring to autumn months.
  • Rinsing out all recycling materials.

Find more ways of making your home less attractive to hungry bears and other wildlife on the City website.

Earlier this year, crews with the City of Prince George began installing new signs at parks and City-owned greenspaces known to be frequented by bears. The signs have been installed at trailheads and in active bear corridor areas and include information on how to stay safe in bear country and how to report a bear to the BC Conservation Officer Service. The City has already installed more than 50 of these signs around the city.

In 2019, the City introduced about 300 bear-resistant residential garbage carts to the Hart Highlands Croft neighbourhood as part of a two-year pilot project to help deter bears from trying to access garbage contained in residential bins.

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