A garbage bear only has a lifespan of two years, according to the new Maple Ridge Bear Aware community coordinator.
Rosie Wijenberg has been hired to educate the public on how to reduce human-bear interaction, and she said she feels her message is an “active” one, teaching people how to avoid habituating bears to live near humans – usually to get cheap, easy calories – by not having attractants around.
Right now the worst attractant is bird feeders that are left over from winter, but other feed, like chicken feed, also attracts bears onto properties. Fallen fruit, unsecured composters, and unsecured garbage also offer a smorgasbord for bears.
Even problem bears are relocated or put down, if the attractants that brought them to a property aren’t dealt with, more bears will start appearing.
“Nature doesn’t like a vacuum,” Wijenberg said.
The Maple Ridge native and current Whonnock resident said her job will involve a lot of door-to-door education, usually based on calls that have come to the RAPP line – RAPP stands for Report All Poachers and Polluters, which the public is encouraged to call if they spot any human-bear conflicts.
Maple Ridge has a large “urban interface” area, an area where forests meet urban development, which has led to more human-bear interactions. Last year alone, 16 problem bears had to be killed in Maple Ridge.
Wijenberg will be working with District staff, the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society, and the BC Conservation Officer Service to coordinate local Bear Aware program activities.
“Bears are very intelligent creatures and naturally very curious,” Wijenberg said.
“The Bear Aware Program has successfully reduced wildlife interactions in communities both east and west of Maple Ridge, and I’m confident that area residents will respond to the common sense advice that’s the cornerstone of the program,” she added.
Bear Aware is a public education initiative that offers practical strategies and solutions, enabling the residents of Maple Ridge to effectively prevent and cope with human-bear conflicts by managing their bear attractants, such as garbage and fruit.
The program strives, through proper waste and attractant management, to prevent bears from lingering in residential areas. This approach is a long-term solution to reducing human-bear conflicts by relying on neighbourhoods working cooperatively to reduce the unnecessary killing of bears and to increase human safety.
Maple Ridge Bear Aware is a joint project spearheaded by the District of Maple Ridge in coordination with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation, Ridge Meadows Recycling Society, and the Conservation Officer Service of British Columbia.
In addition to supporting the Bear Aware program, the District of Maple Ridge has installed bear-proof garbage containers in all new parks, retrofitted the garbage cans in existing parks, and developed Bear Aware signage for areas with high bear activity.
“We all need to take responsibility for how we manage attractants like food waste in our community,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin. “This is pretty straightforward stuff. Secure your garbage in wildlife-proof structures and cans. Put your garbage out the morning of pickup, not the night before. Make sure you clean up any ripe fruit that has fallen from trees or shrubs. Keep your pet food inside the house and clean your barbecue after use. The District website has a ton of great practical tips that will reduce human-bear interactions.”
For information about the Bear Aware program, go to www.bearaware.bc.ca or contact Rosie Wijenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-652-3095. The RAPP line is 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) and their website is www.rapp.bc.ca.
Bear Aware tips:
• Keep your garbage in a location inaccessible to bears. If you do not have secure garbage storage, you can freeze smelly food items until collection or take the garbage directly to the transfer station. You can also use a bear-resistant garbage can.
•Birdseed is particularly attractive to bears in the spring. Birds don’t need additional feed in the summer. Bring bird feeders indoors until November or they may become bear feeders.
•Pick ripe and fallen fruit daily. Consider fruit gleaning or tree removal for any unused fruit trees.
• Compost, outdoor fridges, barbecues, chickens, and pet food are also items that, when managed improperly, become bear attractants.
• If you see a bear, call the conservation officers at 1-877-952-7277. The earlier that conservation officers can intervene in a human-bear conflict, the sooner the bear can return to its natural life and habitat.