Neighbourhood series: Being bear aware in the Tri Cities

The CKNW and Global News Neighbourhood Series is an annual series that explores neighbourhoods in Vancouver, Surrey, and the Tri-Cities.

CKNW’s Claire Allen looks at the importance of being bear aware when living in the Tri-Cities.

LISTEN: Neighbourhood series – being bear aware in the Tri-Cities

Chances are, you know your neighbours. Whether they live down the street from you or are the family in the house next door, you are familiar with them and probably give a friendly wave when you see them.

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But how would you feel if your neighbours were constantly going through your trash or traipsing through your backyard unannounced?

That’s the situation residents of the Tri-Cities have to deal with because, unlike Surrey or downtown Vancouver, residents in the Tri-Cities have had to learn to live alongside bears.

READ MORE: Province destroying too many habituated bears says wildlife expert

Conservation officers have had to issue a warning after a report showed the number of bear sightings this year was three times higher than the normal…and humans are at least partially to blame.

So, why are the Tri-Cities ripe with bear sightings? For that answer, I spoke with Conservation Officer Service Inspector Murray Smith.

He said the main reason is location.

“We’ve taken and put a majority of our community along that [Coquitlam] river valley and consequently we still have bears and they still follow migratory routes that they have since the beginning of time,” said Smith.

“However, we have put subdivisions in these areas and with the consequence, we have wildlife coming into our communities and sometimes it’s in areas there was forest very recently.”

WATCH: Deadly year for bears in B.C.

Click to play video: 'Deadly year for bears in B.C.' Deadly year for bears in B.C.
Deadly year for bears in B.C – Jul 11, 2017

So just how many bear sightings are there in the Tri-Cities every year?

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“Coquitlam has the highest call volume for bears in the province and for municipalities. When you put Port Moody, PoCo, and Coquitlam together it’s by the far the highest volume.”

Smith was quick to point out that the number of calls is directly attributed to residents not being bear smart.

He said animals will continue to use their migratory routes, so it’s up to people to do their part.

“Then what happens is that they use these tributaries off the Coquitlam River and they go along as they have. They’ve got this great sense of smell, and what do they smell? Human avails, and then they don’t leave,” said Smith.

“The answer for us as a population is that we all have to do our part. We have been delivering that message for decades in British Columbia and the lower mainland.”

READ MORE: Squamish residents upset after a bear and her two cubs destroyed by conservation officers

So if you are thinking about moving to the Tri-Cities, what should you do to make sure you don’t add to the problem and attract bears?

“To me, it’s so simple. It’s just a matter of ensuring your garbage is put into an odor proof can that got a garbage bag that is zipped up and that can is now put in a secure building.”

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He said the biggest issue is garbage, adding that a bear will go through a wall to get it.

“So we can’t let them get the sense of smell in the first place.”

WATCH: City of Coquitlam cracks down on garbage delinquents

Click to play video: 'City of Coquitlam cracks down on garbage delinquents' City of Coquitlam cracks down on garbage delinquents
City of Coquitlam cracks down on garbage delinquents – Jul 12, 2017

According to Smith, the City of Port Coquitlam is really doing its part to make residents live in harmony with their furry neighbours.

“They’ve got a really engaged environmental department that is really working hard. They’ve issued 400 tickets this year. So they’re doing an awesome job in making sure we do our part in protecting the bears.”

He said the city has received about 3,000 calls of bear viewings in the area and that about eight bears have been destroyed.

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“I can guarantee you if it wasn’t for the strength and partnership with the municipality of Coquitlam, it would have been worse.”

So consider yourself lucky. You may only have to worry about squirrels, raccoons, and maybe the odd coyote in your neighbourhood, but residents of the Tri-Cities have to always make sure they are bear aware!

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