British Columbia

Conservation officers blame residents after 6 bears destroyed in 2 days in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service said the bears were living in backyards and, despite the efforts of officers, the animals would not move

Officers say 'people did not get it' after warning them repeatedly not to leave out food waste

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says it had no choice but to put down 6 bears last week in a Port Coquitlam neighbourhood. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Conservation officers say they were forced to destroy six bears in just two days last week near a small neighbourhood park in Port Coquitlam, B.C., and they're blaming residents for leaving out garbage that attracts the animals.

Since October, the two families of black bears — one sow and three cubs, plus another sow and cub — have been in and out of the neighbourhood near Fox Park looking for food. 

Sgt. Todd Hunter with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said his team fielded multiple calls to the neighbourhood, but the problem escalated as residents failed to lock up garbage and left out bird seed and other foods that attract bears.

Hunter said the bears were living in backyards and, despite the efforts of officers, the animals would not move.

Officers also tried to discourage residents from throwing out food in unsecured bins by issuing six violation tickets, five dangerous wildlife protection orders and two warnings. 

"People did not get it," Hunter said.

Officers expected the two sows and four cubs to hibernate in the colder months, but the bears continued to stay.

That's when officers decided to destroy the bears last week, Hunter said, noting the process was done safely.

"The decision does not come easily. Obviously we did not want to have to do that."

Officers say the bears were spotted multiple times over the past few months in and around Port Coquitlam's Fox Park. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

'Prisoner in your own home'

Residents are divided over whether the animals should have been saved.

For several months, Linda Walker said she and her pup, Luna, feared what was walking outside.

"It gets to the point where you feel like you're a prisoner in your own home because the bears have really taken over the neighbourhood," she said.

Marie Nicholl has lived in the neighbourhood for decades and was surprised to find out the bears weren't relocated.

"They should have transported them into the bushes where they would have survived."

But officers say that wasn't an option.

"It was our hope that the bears should be going into their of periods of sleep cycle," Hunter said. "They weren't.

"The attractiveness of the area was a lot greater than that."

Sgt. Todd Hunter with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service speaks to area resident Marie Nicholl about putting down the bears. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Councillors consider higher fines

Bear sightings have been on the rise in communities across Metro Vancouver.

Officials say there's many reasons, including loss of habitat. But it's uncontrolled garbage that draws them into particular neighbourhoods.

"There's development happening all over the Tri-Cities and there's not a lot of places for bears to go," said Port Coquitlam Coun. Steve Darling.

"If people refuse to control their garbage and clean up the messes that they have, this is going to continue to happen."

Coun. Steve Darling says more bears will die if people don't secure their food waste. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The city is handing out wildlife-resistant locks to residents for garbage and green carts.

City staff are urging residents to lock up their garbage and those who don't could face fines.

With files from Yvette Brend and Jon Hernandez

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