Bear-proof garbage bins tested in District of Lakeland near P.A. national park

A new style of garbage bin, with a locking mechanism, is undergoing tests in the District of Lakeland in an effort to curb bear encounters.

Bears moving out of bush in search of food because of scarce berry supplies

District of Lakeland Reeve Al Christensen believes an increase in bear sighting is due to the animals moving out of the bush in search of food. They often turn to garbage bins. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

A new style of garbage bin, with a locking mechanism, is undergoing tests in the District of Lakeland in an effort to curb bear encounters.

The district, which includes Emma Lake and other resort areas, is adjacent to Prince Albert National Park and bear sightings have become almost commonplace lately.

Al Christensen, Reeve of the District, told CBC News that new plastic garbage bins have been eyed as potentially easy targets for bears but he believes the animals are simply motivated by hunger.

"The plastic garbage containers are a little easier to knock over, but if a bear is hungry he's going to get into a container that contains food," Christensen said. Hence a test run of a bin with a locked top.

He said he believes the increase in bear sightings is linked to the wet spring and early summer which affected berry production and drove bears from the bush.

"When they come out of the hibernation this spring, it was a late spring, very little vegetation, and they moved in looking for food," he said. "The garbage containers were obviously their main source of food for the first month or so."

The district recently moved to a garbage collection system that uses plastic bins and a mechanical pick-up.

Christensen said they are working with their contractor to find the most suitable bin for their needs and are testing a version with a lockable top.

With files from CBC's Ryan Pilon

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