The BC Conservation Officer Service says homeowners are getting tickets instead of warnings as bear sightings increase in the Nanaimo area.
In 2018 — for the fiscal year of April 1, 2018, to March 31 — there were 85 calls for bear sightings in the City of Nanaimo. From Chemainus to Deep Bay area (including Nanaimo), there were a total of 354 calls.
This fiscal year, there have been 225 calls in the City of Nanaimo Calls. And in the Chemainus to Deep Bay area, there have been 554 calls.
BC Conservation Officer Sgt. Stuart Bates, who covers the central island, said most of the increase is in Nanaimo.
“We did have a few bears this year east of the parkway, which in Nanaimo is unusual,” Bates said.
Bates said two two-year-olds came in around Northfield Road and Morstar Road, hanging out around Coal Tyee Elementary School. According to Bates, the bears had to be put down as they were habituated and were not running away from officers even at 20 feet (six metres).
There’s also a bear that swam to Newcastle Island this summer and is now around Stephenson Point and Linley Valley. Another bear has been reported near Brennan Lake.
“The number one attractant for bears is always garbage. When we say garbage, that includes your green compost bin,” Bates said.
Bears also like the winter apples that aren’t being picked around the city.
Bates said conservation is now handing out fines to people who leave attractants out. Section 33.1 of the B.C. Wildlife Act prohibits the attraction of dangerous wildlife by leaving attractants accessible. The fine for attracting dangerous wildlife to land or premises is $230.
Bates said they have provided information about securing garbage to residents over the last few years.
“Now it’s to the point when do we have to stop educating and start ticketing people?” Bates said.
Most of the tickets issued have been for garbage and compost that has been put out on the roadside more than 12 hours before pickup. Bates said homeowners should be putting garbage and compost out the morning of pickup. However, officers will look at circumstances such as shift work or people who live in mobile homes without garages and sheds.
“Have they made all reasonable efforts to secure it? If they’ve made none then they’re probably going to get a ticket,” Bates said.
When issuing a ticket, conservation officers will knock on the door and hand it to the homeowner. Like a speeding ticket, people can dispute the ticket or pay the fine.
Bates said some communities like Port Alberni issue bear-resistant containers to residents and have a bylaw stating collection containers can only be set out on the day of collection, barring special circumstances.
If a bear poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety, residents are asked to call the BC Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277. Bates said when bears are reported early, residents can be reminded about removing fruit and securing garbage and the bear will leave due to the lack of food.