If you live in the Cowichan Valley and prefer to take your garbage cans or recycling totes out to the curb the night before pickup to avoid that early morning hustle, you might want to rethink your approach.
In response to growing numbers of human-bear conflicts in the region, the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and BC Conservation Officer Service are instructing residents to avoid putting out garbage and recycling totes at the curb the night before collection.
The CVRD says that because bears are attracted to curbside garbage, recycling and organic materials, they are learning to seek out these food sources in residential areas, and the simplest way to reduce bears in neighbourhoods is to keep curbside totes securely stored and off the street until the morning of collection.
And this is more than just a suggestion, it’s a bylaw.
The CVRD says Bylaw No. 1958 stipulates that curbside totes cannot be brought out to the curbside before 5 a.m. on the day of collection. Residents who put their garbage and recycling at the curbside prior to this time will have warning stickers placed on their totes, and repeat offenders will be issued fines of up to $230 by CVRD bylaw staff and BC Conservation Officers.
Communities across the Island have seen bears wandering into residential neighbourhoods in recent weeks and even more are expected as they face limited territory.
The CVRD has been working with WildsafeBC and BC Conservation Officers for several years to reduce human-bear conflicts in the region.
“We are fortunate in the Cowichan Valley to have such an abundance of wildlife and natural spaces bordering our communities,” said Aaron Stone, Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. “But this proximity to wildlife comes with a collective responsibility to ensure we are doing our part to keep these animals safe and wild.”
The BC Conservation Office says the strict enforcement of the curbside totes is not to penalize residents but to help protect the bears.
“Conservation officers don’t want to destroy bears, so fines will be issued as a measure to protect bears from becoming habituated to garbage and other food sources in residential areas,” said Scott Norris, BC Conservation Officer for the Cowichan Valley region.
“We know it’s inconvenient for many to wake up early and bring their totes to the curb, but we hope residents will take heed and help protect our wildlife and our communities.”
In a release on Friday, the CVRD says that while some residents may not mind having a bear visit their yard, it can become a dangerous situation for neighbouring children and pets.
“Bears that learn to repeatedly seek out food in residential areas will have to be destroyed, as moving a bear from its territory is rarely successful,” said the City. “It is also unsafe for bears in residential areas and they have been known to eat plastic and similar inedible items from curbside bins that smell appetizing, which can lead to a prolonged and painful death.”
For tips on how to be bear smart, visit the Wild Safe BC website. Residents are asked to report bear sightings and human-wildlife conflicts using the Report All Poachers and Polluters telephone line at 1.877.952.7277.