Reducing human-bear conflicts one garbage bin at a time

Published: December 16, 2019 · Updated: December 17, 2019

human bear conflicts Photo by WildSafeBC

Canadians are no stranger to run-ins with bears but one B.C. organization is hoping to reduce the frequency of human-bear conflicts by testing products.

Using black and grizzly bears, the B.C. Bear-Resistant Product Group, located in the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops, tests products to determine their resilience to wildlife. If it withstands a full hour of touch time without the bear accessing the food inside, it will receive a certification.

Wild Wednesday – Season 3 – Episode 41: Certified Bear Resistant Bins from WildSafeBC on Vimeo.

Created in partnership with WildSafeBC and the B.C. Wildlife Park, it is one of two facilities in North America and the only facility in Canada.

“The bulk of our testing is usually on bins or carts that will be placed at the curb for residential pick up,” said Vanessa Isnardy, Provincial WildSafeBC coordinator. “It is important to note that we never use the term ‘bear proof’ because, if given enough time, bears can break into just about everything.”

B.C. is often referred to as “bear country”. It plays host to one of the highest populations of black bears in the world; an estimated 120,000-150,000.

According to WildSafeBC, the number of calls to the Conservation Officer Reporting Line regarding bear conflicts or sightings range between 14,000 to 25,000 each year.

What is the cost of human disturbance on wildlife?

Attraction to human food is frequently the cause of negative human-bear conflicts. Food-conditioned bears can cause extensive property damage or, in rarer circumstances, human injury or death. WildSafeBC found between 2014 to 2017, garbage accounted for 60 per cent of all calls of bear activity.

“It often starts when people leave their garbage out overnight, and if a bear gets into it, they realize that it’s a good food source and then that’s when they start to get habituated to people,” said Isnardy. “Then what often happens is they start showing up on garbage day, or in the daytime and it starts to escalate, so we really want to prevent that from happening.”

She encourages people to become acquainted with the habits of bears to prevent negative interactions.

Tips:

  • Storing garbage inside until collection day
  • Purchasing a bear-resistant household container
  • Ensuring bins are tightly closed
  • Washing all recycling items regularly
  • Clean bins that contain garbage or recycling, and freeze smelly items
  • Only add to the bin on the morning of collection.

“When bears learn to receive a food reward from humans, this ultimately results in negative consequences for [the bears] but also puts people’s safety at risk as well,” Isnardy said.

“These tested, bear-resistant products are important tools that can be used to help reduce access to attractants for the safety of individuals and their whole community.”

To see a complete list of successful products, visit http://igbconline.org/bear-resistant-products/.

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