West Coasters who fail to secure their garbage could be looking at fines this summer.
B.C. Conservation Officers were in Ucluelet on Wednesday to set a trap for a habituated bear that has reportedly become food conditioned to unnatural food sources, like residential and commercial garbage, and recently broke into a secured shed to access its newfound food craving.
Conservation Officer Steve Ackles told the Westerly News the bear being targeted is likely the same one identified as being habituated last month.
“It broke through a door in a shed where people were keeping their garbage, which is a result of it becoming food conditioned to garbage and then habituated to people,” Ackles said. “Once they start breaking into secured structures, that level of habituation is not acceptable. That’s learned behaviour and it’s not going to go away.”
Ackles said CO’s dished out several Dangerous Wildlife Protection Orders while they were in town this week after noticing several sites where garbage wasn’t being secured. Those orders are not fines, but do stipulate a fixed amount of time for a resident or business owner to make their garbage unaccessible to wildlife.
“It’s usually given to businesses where their commercial dumpster has been accessed by a bear and they’re not locking it,” Ackles said. “A lot of times, we just give a ticket, but in this case, the officer was satisfied that they are doing all they can but, when the dumpster is locked, tourists tend to just throw the garbage on top of the dumpster and the bear accesses the garbage that way.”
He added the West Coast is running out of warnings and fines are the next step.
“We are there to work with the community, but, unfortunately, if we let our guard down, people just go back to the old ways,” he said. “We’re here to save bears and that means working with everyone, but, if it’s repeat offenders and people aren’t taking notice, we do have tickets available and we do and will use them.”
The charge for failing to secure wildlife attractants on a property falls under B.C.’s Wildlife Act and costs recipients $250.
“I can’t say that every time somebody’s going to get a ticket, because there’s all different sorts of circumstances. We use our discretion,” Ackles said. “People just have to step it up a little bit and be bear aware all the time: 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year…We have to make sure those non-natural food sources are not accessible to any bear.”
Ackles urges all business owners and residents to check out www.wildsafebc.com to learn how to best manage their attractants.
“There’s so much good information there about how to coexist,” he said.
He added bears will become more active next month and locals must be wary and commit to coexisting with wildlife.
“All year round is a good time, but especially now,” he said. “Bears go through a stage in their lifecycle called hyperphagia, where their body is telling them they have to put on more calories for hibernation even if they don’t truly hibernate on the Island. It’s just a stomach connected to the brain search for food constantly. That starts to begin at the end of August.”