COQUITLAM, B.C., July 14, 2021 – A combination of education, enforcement and public compliance is proving successful in reducing bear problems in Coquitlam.
A recent update to Council on the City’s Urban Wildlife Program showed the downward trend of warnings and tickets for non-compliance with bear regulations continued in 2020 – representing a 79 per cent drop from 2017 figures.
The dramatic reduction is being attributed to both the City’s concerted education and enforcement efforts and cooperation from Coquitlam residents in keeping food waste and other attractants away from wildlife. A recent audit showed more than 99 per cent of residents are complying with the City’s waste cart set-out times.
Cart Audit Shows Increasing Compliance
Since 2004, the City’s Urban Wildlife Program has delivered annual education, outreach and enforcement activities in an effort to protect public safety, reduce property damage from wildlife and help protect the welfare of bears and other wildlife.
In 2017, Coquitlam was the largest urban municipality in B.C. and only city in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver to receive provincial recognition as a Bear Smart Community.
In the same year, the City began conducting annual city-wide audits to check if residents were putting their carts out at the curb after 5:30 a.m. on collection day – not the night before – as required by the City’s Solid Waste Bylaw.
Carts lining the street at night essentially become a buffet for bears, which are always looking for an easy meal.
During the audits, warning stickers are attached to any carts left out overnight, often prompting residents to contact the City and have a discussion with staff about the importance of complying with the bylaw. With 2021’s compliance rate of 99.4 per cent and increasingly positive results five years in a row, the City will pause the annual audits and conduct them as-needed in the future, but will still continue weekly compliance patrols.
Modified Program Implemented in 2020
Although the team had to modify its approach in 2020 due to the pandemic, it continued its education and outreach work with new activities such as virtual presentations and outdoor physically distanced pop-ups, and existing methods such as “bear in area” mailouts, ReCollect app reminders, social media messaging and online instructional videos.
In terms of enforcement, last year staff focused on warnings and voluntary compliance for infractions before issuing tickets, recognizing the hardships many were experiencing due to the pandemic.
The team also kicked into action to address human-bear conflicts when they arose, such as installing signs and hosting information booths about bear safety after a bear touched a hiker on the Coquitlam Crunch last September, and installing signs and initiating patrols to keep people away from the bears during salmon spawning season.
Service calls to the City about urban wildlife concerns dropped 7.5 per cent in 2020 to 1,173 from 1,268 in 2019 – representing a 10.4 per cent reduction from 2017.
Of the 2020 calls, two-thirds were related to garbage and other attractants, and the majority of those were proactive requests for patrols or inspections when neighbours saw others not complying with the bylaws. Calls were fairly evenly distributed in the central and north parts of the community, with markedly fewer in the southwest.
How Residents Can Keep Their Neighbourhood Safe
Unsecured garbage continues to be the most common bear attractant in Coquitlam. Residents are encouraged to:
- Keep garbage and food waste securely stored at all times;
- Separate waste and put food scraps in the Green Cart;
- Make sure attractants such as pet food, bird feeders and ripe fruit are not accessible to wildlife;
- Freeze smelly food scraps until collection day;
- Clean carts after collection to minimize odours; and
- Only put out Garbage and Green Carts after 5:30 a.m. on collection day – not the night before.
Become a "Bear Smart" household by committing to Coquitlam’s bear smart guidelines. Complete the online pledge at www.coquitlam.ca/bearsmart and the City will mail you a Bear Smart sticker that you can display to show your community that you are a proud Bear Smart Household.
Property owners that allow wildlife to access attractants – even unintentionally – may be subject to a $500 fine. These rules and more are explained at www.coquitlam.ca/bearsmart.
Urban Wildlife Activities in 2021 and 2022
With pandemic restrictions easing, Coquitlam’s Urban Wildlife staff will begin to resume in-person presentations and attend community events as part of their ongoing public education and community outreach work.
While continuing to focus primarily on single-family neighbourhoods, the team is also paying increased attention to construction sites, multi-family, industrial, commercial and institutional properties.
City of Coquitlam