B.C. woman spends 100s of hours patrolling garbage bins to protect bears
Number of bears killed in B.C. at 5 year seasonal high
Garbage is something Carla Parr-Pearson of Port Moody, B.C., spends a lot of time thinking about.
Every week she's in her car or on foot for 20 to 30 hours, searching the city for improperly managed garbage bins that could attract bears. Especially those which are unclipped or left out overnight ahead of collection day.
"If they're unclipped and they're on the road and the bear accesses them, then they'll come back. They know. They're very smart and they know that there's a reward for them," Parr-Pearson said.
When she finds infractions, she documents where and when it happened. First, she seeks to educate through pamphlets and sharing information. But for repeat offenders, it could mean a call to bylaw officers.
"We don't want the bear to become habituated. Once the bear becomes habituated, that's one of the main reasons why a bear ends up destroyed in our neighbourhood," Parr-Pearson said.
Parr-Pearson was spurred to action after a mother bear and two yearling cubs were killed in Port Moody in 2016, leaving a third orphaned. She remembered seeing the bears in her backyard the year before.
"I called the city and asked them what what can I do. And they said we need your ears and eyes to help report when bears are accessing unsecured bins," she said.
Bear killings at a 5-year high
The numbers show Parr-Pearson has reason to be concerned.
Between April to August 2019, 387 bears were either put down in B.C. by officers or killed by members of the public due to aggressive behaviour. It's a five year high for that period.
"It's not fun. It's nothing that we like to do. However, people's safety is paramount," said Sgt. Todd Hunter with the Conservation Officer Service.
The number of calls about bear sightings and encounters is on the rise as well. There were 58 per cent more calls so far this year — from 7,802 to 12,360 — compared to last year.
Thirty-four cubs have been sent to rehab.
Hunter said there are a number of contributing factors, including an increase in human population, more development, fewer salmon and bears getting used to trash.
"Reduce those conflicts that are associated to bears being habituated to garbage, we'll see a reduction. And then we're doing our part," Hunter said.
The statistics for Port Moody are better than the provincial figures (no bears were killed last year and two so far in 2019).
But there have been a number of aggressive instances this year. Hunter said officers are currently tracking an aggressive bear in Port Moody that will need to be killed.
"Definitely we can't afford someone being out there and getting hurt or injured," Hunter said.
Parr-Pearson said she hopes her work helps others realize how important it is to to be respectful and share Port Moody with bears properly.
"Who wants to hear a gunshot? Who wants to hear that a bear has been destroyed?" she said.
City taking steps to protect bears
After a presentation by Parr-Pearson and other bear advocates, the City of Port Moody voted in favour of raising its fees for bylaw infractions related to bears from $50 to $500 for first violations.
Kurt Frei, who manages community outreach regarding bears for the City of Port Moody, said there are plans to do even more.
Council recently decided to provide additional funding for education and outreach regarding bears and managing garbage, in the hopes of signing onto the province's Bear Smart program.
The Conservation Officers Service said it hopes more communities follow suit.
"Prevention is the key to reducing the amount of conflicts and the number of incidences where bears are having to be put down," Hunter said.
Watch bear cubs play-fighting in Port Moody, B.C.