Garbage causing conflict with bears in Cowichan

Officials are reminding people not to put out their garbage the night before collection

People in the Cowichan Valley Regional District are being reminded not to put their garbage out early, as it can attract bears. (Black Press File Photo)

People in the Cowichan Valley Regional District are being reminded not to put their garbage out early, as it can attract bears. (Black Press File Photo)

In response to growing numbers of human-bear conflicts in the region, the Cowichan Valley Regional District and BC Conservation Officer Service are reminding the public not to put their garbage and recycling totes at the curb the night before collection.

According to Conservation Officer Scott Norris, there have been 230 such conflicts in Cowichan since April 1. This is a marked increase from the 350 reported for all of 2019.

Bears are attracted to curbside garbage, recycling and organic materials and are learning to repeatedly seek out these food sources in residential areas, a press release from the CVRD said. The CVRD has been working with WildsafeBC and BC Conservation Officers for several years to reduce human-bear conflicts in the region. It is evident that the simplest way to reduce these conflicts is to keep curbside totes securely stored and off the street until the morning of collection.

“We are fortunate in the Cowichan Valley to have such an abundance of wildlife and natural spaces bordering our communities,” said Aaron Stone, chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. “But this proximity to wildlife comes with a collective responsibility to ensure we are doing our part to keep these animals safe and wild.”

A CVRD bylaw stipulates that curbside totes can’t be brought out to the curb before 5 a.m. on the day of collection. Residents who put their garbage and recycling at the curb prior to 5 a.m. will have warning stickers placed on their totes, and repeat offenders will be issued fines of up to $230 by CVRD bylaw staff and BC Conservation Officers.

“Conservation officers don’t want to destroy bears, so fines will be issued as a measure to protect bears from becoming habituated to garbage and other food sources in residential areas,” said Scott Norris, BC Conservation Officer for the Cowichan Valley region. “We know it’s inconvenient for many to wake up early and bring their totes to the curb, but we hope residents will take heed and help protect our wildlife and our communities.”

While some residents may not mind having a bear visit their yard, it can become a dangerous situation for neighbouring children and pets. Bears that learn to repeatedly seek out food in residential areas will have to be destroyed, as moving a bear from its territory is rarely successful. It is also unsafe for bears in residential areas and they have been known to eat plastic and similar inedible items from curbside bins that smell appetizing, which can lead to a prolonged and painful death.

For tips on how to be bear smart, visit Residents are asked to report bear sightings and human-wildlife conflicts using the Report All Poachers and Polluters telephone line at 1-877-952-7277.