Household garbage continues to be the number one human attractant for bears on the Sunshine Coast, closely followed by backyard chickens and domestic fruit trees, the community coordinator for WildSafe BC told Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors last week.
Reporting on her group’s activities during the past year, Kim Drescher said she would continue to advocate for standardized bear-proof residential bins for the whole Coast.
“As the Sunshine Coast continues to move towards bi-weekly garbage and organics pick up, it is vital to acknowledge and consider our proximity to various species of wildlife and the conflict that will occur as a result of improper management,” Drescher told the infrastructure services committee on Dec. 6.
Drescher said many residents and visitors have gotten the message and taken proper steps to minimize conflicts, but added it was “hard to say we’re making progress” in view of the 12 bears that were destroyed this season.
“That’s a relatively high number,” she said.
By comparison, only three bears were destroyed in Whistler, a designated Bear Smart community, and one of those died after a vehicle collision.
Part of the problem this year, she said, was due to visitors and seasonal residents leaving garbage out on the day they left, rather than the scheduled pick-up day.
In her report, Drescher said she hopes to collaborate with tourism groups and local government to create controlled drop-off areas, perhaps close to the Langdale and Earls Cove ferry terminals.
Another goal is to find ways for businesses and multi-family complexes to end the use of plastic-lidded and unlocked dumpsters that are also attractants to bears.
After human refuse, chickens and other small livestock accounted for the second highest volume of bear calls this season, while unpicked fruit from trees and berry bushes came third, Drescher said in her report.
One of the recommended methods to reduce such conflicts is electric fencing, and a July workshop on how to build and maintain electric fences drew more than 70 people, including beekeepers, farmers and gardeners.
“As the focus now is on local production of foods, the concept of food security and predator-friendly farming practices is extremely important,” Drescher said.
WildSafe BC was launched in May and replaced the previous Bear Aware program, expanding it to include coyotes, cougars and other species.
Black bear sightings reported to the Conservation Officer Service from Jan. 1 to Oct. 29 were highest in the Gibsons area (241), followed by Sechelt (225), Roberts Creek (92), Halfmoon Bay (39) and Pender Harbour (30).
The Gibsons area also reported the most coyote sightings (20 compared to five in Sechelt and two in Roberts Creek) and cougar sightings (40), followed by Halfmoon Bay (24), Sechelt (23), Roberts Creek (8) and Pender Harbour (1).
Drescher said a bear advisory group formed this season is working toward securing provincial Bear Smart community status for the Coast, which is based on adopting bear-resistant disposal methods, appropriate bylaws and educational outreach.