It’s a mystery that residents of some parts of downtown Vancouver are literally losing sleep over.
It sounds like gunshots, or even explosions, and residents of the city’s Strathcona, Crosstown and Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods say it’s happening nightly — or even several times nightly.
“It used to be every now and then, now it’s almost like every hour or a couple in an hour on certain days,” said Joel Rivera, a Crosstown resident.
“It’s been the talk of the neighbourhood probably for at least the last two months.”
What Rivera and his neighbours are hearing are “bear bangers” — legal, explosive noise-making devices designed for backcountry users to scare bears away.
The devices have long been widely available, but have recently become a growing nuisance in the city.
Rivera said it’s irritating residents, and terrifying pets.
Residents aren’t imagining the explosion in use of bear bangers.
Vancouver police say they got 88 reports of bear bangers being used in May, compared to 28 in April, and just three in March.
Vancouver Green Coun. Pete Fry, himself a Strathcona resident, has asked the city manager to look into the issue.
“It sounds like they are tying them together and making improvised explosive devices, essentially … I do worry that it’s only a matter of time before somebody is hurt,” Fry told Global News.
“Bear bangers have killed people and caused people to lose digits and limbs, so it’s not just a loud noise.”
Police told Global News they’re aware of the issue and on the lookout for the perpetrators — but it’s tough to catch someone in the act.
VPD Const. Tania Visintin said police want people to call the non-emergency line or 311 to report incidents, so that investigators can better understand where and when it is happening, and deploy resources accordingly.
“If they could get more reports and could narrow down a time, it would help,” she said.
“They can be dangerous if they are not used properly. They should not be used in the city, we don’t have bears in the city.”
As for why the blasts have become a near-nightly occurrence, police say they are as mystified as everyone else.