The workshop is about being bear smart but it’s also about reframing the discussion around human-wildlife interactions.
“One thing we’ve come across is a perception from residents that we have a bear problem,” said Port Coquitlam’s senior manager of fleet and solid waste Tom Madigan said. “We thought it would be great to do a seminar to teach that we don’t have a bear problem, we have a human problem.”
The workshop, scheduled for May 24 at the Port Coquitlam Community Centre, is focused on how to manage interactions with bears, coyotes, and other animals in urban environments across the city.
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The workshop will teach people the psychology of bears, why they should lock their carts, and odour-reducing techniques such as freezing their compost and cleaning their barbecue.
“[These are] little helpful tips to engage residents in understanding their actions and behaviours directly impact public safety,” Madigan said.
Port Coquitlam has a solid waste bylaw that requires residents and businesses to secure garbage and green waste.
In 2022, there were more than 2,400 conflicts with black bears recorded in the Tri-Cities.
Port Coquitlam had a reported 830 bear conflicts, which was the second highest in the region behind Coquitlam’s 1,127 human-wildlife conflicts.
Unsecured food is a major attractant for bears and other wildlife, Madigan said.
Minnekhada Regional Park, which is located northwest of Port Coquitlam, has been reported to have an “unusually high population of bears” living in secluded, off-trail areas of the park. But the bears don’t always stay in the confines of the park.
South of Minnekhada, there is a 200-hectare berry farm and salmon-bearing creek that is a major food source for bears. As bears forage for berries in the farm, they may be drawn to residential areas where they can find more food.
Last May, a black bear knocked down a homeowner’s fence as it was looking for unsecured garbage in the Sun Valley neighbourhood of Port Coquitlam.
Madigan said the importance of maintaining bear smart practices is especially important as new residents move to Port Coquitlam from other cities, including Burnaby and Vancouver, where there are fewer chances of having a bear encounter.
“We live in the forest, we have a beautiful community in a natural area,” Madigan said. “As human beings we have to be responsible for the impact we’ve put on these natural spots. As we’ve built, we’ve certainly impacted food sources.”
Climate change has also impacted food sources for wildlife and bears are routinely seen throughout the city looking for food, Madigan added. If residents aren’t prepared, they might be shocked to see a bear in their neck of the woods.
“During the spring, they could be looking for anywhere from 5-7,000 calories [per day],” he said. “Once you get to the winter, they are looking at 100,000 calories… Could you imagine eating a 25 kilogram bag of sugar? That’s what they’re trying to ingest.”
The number of bear interactions in Port Coquitlam will not change overnight, Madigan acknowledged.
He views the workshop as part of a long-term solution that will help residents adapt to living with bears and other wildlife.
“Every resident, every business, everyone has a role to play,” Madigan said. “It’s about changing human behaviour.”
The May 24 workshop is the last session for the spring. However, Port Coquitlam is planning to have another series of wildlife workshops for residents in the fall — when bears are approaching hibernation.