Wildlife-based problems prompt many calls to conservation officers, as WildSafe’s Todd Carnahan, right, and conservation officer, Sgt. Scott Norris, show on a map. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)

VIDEO: Snack-happy bears troubling Lake Cowichan neighbourhoods

These bears are big, they’re hungry, and they’re now addicted to our food

Bears addicted to garbage?

Lake Cowichan’s got them, and town council wants to know whether putting some money into WildSafeBC (formerly Bear Aware) will help solve the problem.

The group has asked for a donation, pointing out that they get more than $12K in combined donations from several municipalities and groups around the Valley but need more to step up the work they are doing.

Several residents are discussing the difficulty of dealing with bruins who hang around residential areas, looking for people that persist in putting their garbage cans out the night before pick-up, despite warnings. Bill Garrett of Lake Park Estates said he had circulated a notice about it to all the members of his strata there.

”We do have some problem bears in this town. The one I have seen with my own eyes is a 500-pound black bear that wanders from Lake Park Estates all the way to Point Ideal. It’s been seen by many people, and has tried to get into the homes on two occasions up at Lake Park. The whole problem is public awareness, and people not dealing with their garbage correctly. Public safety, public education is critical,” he said.

Garrett said his an area strat council’s decision to fine residents for behaviour that was attracting bears was only partially successful.

“We still have two homes in my strata that have an issue. I’ve picked up garbage in the common area almost on a monthly basis, five large garbage bags full from the bear coming through and dragging stuff around. We’ve had the RCMP out on two occasions attempting to shoot the bear but couldn’t get a clean shot so they held fire.”

The problem is not new, he said.

“Fish and Wildlife —the conservation officer— spent almost two weeks out there nightly, patrolling the area. They were going to be coming through on a random basis, checking garbage cans, prepared to issue $800 fines. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them since October, probably because of budget problems. But it is better. The bear is staying in the woods at least now, and coming to specific homes but it’s still an issue. The maximum fine the strata can impose is only $50. That’s not sufficient to really teach anybody not to put their garbage out early.”

Council, at the urging of Mayor Rod Peters, decided to look at the request during their coming budget discussions.

“I think the hours they put in are dependent on how much money you put into it. We’ll have to make that decision at budget time,” Coun. Lorna Vomacka said.

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