Burnaby needs a bear policy

Residents at some North Burnaby housing complexes are finding their garbage bins being looted by more than the average scavenger.

There have been numerous sightings of black bears digging into food scraps carts in the Ash Grove Crescent area of Burnaby Mountain, where residents are contending with both visits from the local wildlife and conflicting reports from the city.

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Glen Porter of the Pine Ridge Housing Co-op is no stranger to ursine encounters.

“Over the years, we’ve often had bear visits. They’re not aggressive, but they have been getting into the food bins,” Porter said.

At one point, the residents of Pine Ridge even resorted to putting their food scraps into a metal dumpster to keep the bears away. The dumpster was padlocked, but the added security combined with the heavy metal lid meant that the co-op’s older residents struggled with dealing with their food scraps.

After informing the City of Burnaby of his co-op’s problem, Porter was told that if he wanted some sort of bear-proof bins, he would need to catch the culprits red-handed.

Residents of the Pine Ridge Housing Co-op banded together to document the bears’ dumpster-diving, while maintaining a safe distance from the animals. “We had people leaning out of their windows taking pictures,” said Porter.

Although the city did provide reinforced bins to his co-op earlier this month, the former biologist feels the improvements may have been more improvisation than a permanent solution, citing how, save for some metal additions, the bins were mostly the same.

“These are not the last word in bear-bins,” said Porter affably, who added that he was both satisfied with the city’s response and the bins’ effectiveness, as he has not seen a bear since.

But when Carole Jantzen of the neighbouring Mountainside Village made a similar request to the city, she was told that the city doesn’t have a plan for bear-proof bins and that they don’t work.

Jantzen feels that residents of Burnaby are caught in a crossfire.
“(We’re) required to compost, but B.C. Conservation says not to leave anything that will attract bears. What do you do?” she asked.

Jantzen also said that both the city and Conservation B.C. impose fines for non-compliance, something that she said isn’t a solution.

The B.C. Wildlife Act has provisions to protect wildlife, including a fine of “$50,000 and/or six months in jail,” for people who fail to comply with written warnings from conservation officers.
In April, North Burnaby resident Nicole Fenwick wrote to the city about the way in which it was dealing with bears. 

In her address, Fenwick suggested that the city consider WildSafe B.C. training for residents in order to educate them about food scrap management.

Burnaby’s assistant director of engineering, Dipak Dattani, replied, in an email sent in May, that “we’re still in the midst of our overall review of the bear situation.”

“There’s bears on Burnaby Mountain, we know that,” said Fenwick, who was at a loss to explain why cities like North Vancouver and Coquitlam had regulations in place to protect against bears, while hers doesn’t.
“It seems crazy,” she said.
Calls to the City of Burnaby were not returned.

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