British Columbia

Coquitlam bear attack could have been prevented, say local residents

Port Coquitlam residents who live near where a 10-year-old girl was mauled by a bear over the weekend say it had been eating from compost bins in the area for months.

City says bear-proof locks it issued housing complex for compost bins are effective if used correctly

Reinhard Winter and his neighbour, Margaret Ellwood, stand near the compost bins where they say they frequently saw a bear and her cub. (CBC)

Residents of Port Coquitlam, B.C., who live near where a 10-year-old girl was mauled by a bear last weekend say the animal had been eating from compost bins in the area for months.

"She got used to people," said Reinhard Winter, who lives in a housing complex across the municipal border from the popular Coquitlam river trail where the bear was eventually killed and her cub captured.

"She was back and forth I don't know how many times ... twice a day sometimes."

Winter and his neighbour, Margaret Ellwood, said the bear became a well-known guest in the neighbourhood. 

"People got kind of fond of her because she was here all the time — the cub was cute," Ellwood said. 

Ellwood and Winter said residents in the complex each have their own garbage and recycling bins, but the city kept the shared compost bins outside for all residents to access. 

'We just stayed in'

They said they told the city about the bear, and the city did provide residents with containers they thought would be bear-proof. 

"The bear doesn't care — she knocks it over," Winter said.

Elwood and Winter said the mother bear and her cub had been climbing over a fence and eating from the complex's compost bins for about four months. 

Conservation officers tranquilized this black bear cub on Saturday, August 13, 2016 after its mother attacked a 10-year-old girl. The cub will go to a rehabilitation centre and be released into the wild in 2017. (Bill Cook)

Over that time, Winter said, the bear became increasingly habituated to people. Residents tried to scare and shoo the bear away, but it just looked at them and kept on eating.

Elwood and Winter said it was just a matter of time before the bear became more of a problem. 

"I wasn't going out," Ellwood said. "The last couple of nights before that happened, we just stayed in." 

Bear locks effective, says city

But the City of Port Coquitlam says the special bear-proof locks it provided the complex should work to deter bears. 

"If the locks are put on correctly, bears are not going to be able to get in the green bins," said Dan Scoones, manager of bylaw services. 

"Then the bins can be outside and if the bears do try to get in they're pretty well going to be unsuccessful."

He said the locks have been field tested, successfully, with grizzly bears, and are used at other residential complexes in the city. 

He said bear sightings, especially if they involve garbage, should be reported to conservation officers. 

With files from Kamil Karamali