As Saanich Police alerted residents to the presence of a bear in the Hartland area Tuesday evening, a provincial conservation officer reminded residents that they can incur fines under a provincial act if they do not clean up any garbage that could attract bears.
Just after 4 p.m. Tuesday, Saanich Police received a report of a black bear walking through a backyard in the Hartland area of Saanich. Attending officers spoke to residents and determined that the bear was not aggressive. The animal appeared habituated and police encourage residents to store their waste and compost bins to discourage bears and other wildlife from coming in contact with people. Tuesday’s sighting follows a similar incident Sunday.
“It is an offence to attract dangerous wildlife and a bear is considered dangerous wildlife,” said Peter Pauwels, a conservation officer with B.C.’s Ministry of Environment. “And leaving garbage is definitely attracting bears.”
The cost of a first offence under the B.C. Wildlife Act is $230, with subsequent offences potentially running into thousands of dollars. Pauwels said the province relies on voluntary compliance in changing behaviour. “The tickets are a last resort,” he said.
While he has not handed out any tickets in that specific area, he has issued tickets in the Greater Victoria region.
Pauwels made these comments after what was likely a young adult male black bear rummaged through garbage Sunday in rural Saanich. Overall, conservation officers received three or four reports of a bear in the 5800 block of West Saanich Road. Another report came from the Wallace Road area, said Pauwels, adding it was likely the same bear. Conservation officers have been tracking the bear for about a year or so, said Pauwels, who estimates the bear weighs between 250 and 300 pounds.
“He’s been around for a while,” said Pauwels. “It’s not a small one.”
Pauwels said the public needs to lock up their garbage, thereby making it bear-proof. “To bear-proof, means storing it [garbage] in a way that wildlife cannot reach,” he said.
While many garbage cans advertise themselves as wildlife resistant, that is not the same as bear proof.
“They [garbage cans] need to be stored inside a structure, where a bear cannot get into it.” That might be a carport or shed among other structures, he said.
Storing garbage inside a structure does not guarantee that a bear will not attempt to get into the garbage, but will lessen its likelihood, said Pauwels.
“At this point, this bear has not taken steps to break into buildings,” he said. If the animal cannot get to the garbage, it will move on in its search for food, said Pauwels. “That’s the only reason to hang around anybody’s property – that’s food.”
Composting heaps also draw bears, according to Pauwels, who urges residents to learn more about proper composting methods.
So what should residents do when confronted with a bear in their driveway or on their property?
“It depends on the circumstances,” said Pauwels. “You’ve got to exercise some common sense.”
Generally, the key is to make the bear uncomfortable from a safe position, he said. That might involve loud sounds such as a car or air horn, said Pauwels.