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Reducing number of bear-related calls in Tri-Cities part of BCCOS wish-list for 2020

FILE: A black bear looks up from rifling through the garbage in the front yard of a home on July 6, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo, Becky Bohrer)
Summary

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service in the Tri-Cities hopes 2020 will see fewer bear-related calls

The BCCOS says people, municipalities need to do better to keep bear-human conflicts down, after a high-call volume year

About 30 bears have been euthanized in the Tri-Cities since April of this year

PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – Instead of just looking back, conservation officers in B.C. are looking forward to 2020, after a year filled with bear-related calls.

The realistic goal, or resolution, for the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) this New Year around the Tri-Cities and surrounding area is to reduce the number of bear-human conflicts.

“You can’t say that we’re going to eliminate any bear conflict,” Sgt. Todd Hunter with the service explains. “We want to reduce it.”

He says the hope is to free up some time so officers can get to the other work that is part of their job — like enforcement, environmental protection, and dealing with traditional policing of gaming.

“Right now, we are doing a ton of response to human-wildlife conflict,” he adds. “I’d like to reduce that, especially for my team, so we can get out there doing some other enforcement, protecting the environment.”

However, the goal is also to save more bear lives and keep you safe.

“When we have to destroy bears, it’s not [anything] officers like to do,” Hunter admits. “It’s difficult, but public safety is paramount.”

This comes after a 2019 that saw high-call volume for bear-related conflicts, especially in the Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, and Coquitlam areas.

Becoming ‘Bear Smart’

Hunter says there’s also a provincial push to get communities that have a high-conflict rate, like the Tri-Cities, to become Bear Smart.

That means preparing a hazard assessment, a management plan, implementing an education program, developing and maintaining a bear-proof waste management system, and finally, implementing Bear Smart by-laws.

“My number one goal is to have all these high-conflict areas bear-smart. It’s going to promote leadership throughout the province, it’s going to establish those things where there’s problematic areas that we have some resolutions, and the reduction,” Hunter explains, adding some communities are already in the process.

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However, Hunter notes people can do their part to keep bears away from their homes, too.

“Don’t attract bears to your garbage. Oftentimes, we get people saying, ‘Oh, it just happened once.’ Well, I really don’t want to hear that anymore because it’s happening quite frequently,” he admits. “It might only happen to you once, but manage it. It shouldn’t happen at all. If you’re getting things coming around to your home, there’s a problem.”

He says you should try to manage your property to the “lowest level form of wildlife,” like for rats, to try and avoid conflicts.

According to the BCCOS, about 30 bears have been euthanized in the Tri-Cities area since April over concerns about conflict. Hunter says there have been hundreds of bear-related calls in that time.

-With files from Martin MacMahon