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Bear advocacy group pushes for locking residential garbage bins

Northern Bear Awareness Society wants Prince George city council to restore budget for proactive initiatives to reduce human-bear conflicts
Prince George has been besieged by bears wandering into neighbourhoods in search of food. The Northern Bear Awareness Society is calling for locking residential garbage bins as a deterrent.

After a late-summer, early-fall incursion that brought unprecedented numbers of black bears wandering into Prince George neighbourhoods in search of food, animal advocates are calling for the city to act upon a proposal to supply residents with bear-resistant garbage bins.

The Northern Bear Awareness Society, which works to reduce human-bear conflicts,  has launched an online petition calling for the more secure bins to try to prevent bears from becoming habituated to feasting on food scraps that get dumped into the trash cans.

“We see many residents doing the best they can to minimize attractants on their properties, but it is not enough,” said the group. “Residential waste is the top attractant for bears in Prince George and once a bear has access to garbage the chances increase that it will be deemed a threat to public safety.”

In April 2019, the city introduced locking bins in a three-year pilot project which installed 300 locking bins in areas near greenbelts known to attract bears. But the project was shelved when it was determined the locks sometimes froze and failed to release during winter months.

Conservation officer Eamon McArthur said he fully supports locking bins, whatever it takes prevent what was by far the busiest urban bear season he’s ever encountered. He’s aware the cost of replacing the 25,000 existing residential bins in Prince George with the type that has locking lids has been estimated at more than $7 million and he’s hoping cheaper alternatives can be found.

“Port Coquitlam has an external clasp with a metal band that they bolt on to the top and you can remove it for garbage day and then bolt it back on and it’s been fairly functional, assuming that the homeowner utilizes it,” said McArthur.

The locks cost about $50 each and they are not foolproof but do work as a deterrent.

The petition launched on Sept. 26 and as of Friday morning 560 people had signed it. Society director Lisa Cran hopes the signatures will add momentum to help convince city council to tackle the bear problem and reinstate a budget to fund proactive initiatives to help Prince George receive provincial Bear Smart status.

“In our presentation we’ll have a couple of suggestions such as a gradual roll-out of the carts to help ease the financial up-front burden,” said Cran.

“We want work with the city to find a cost-effective option, if it means more of a lid replacement rather than a cart replacements, and finding one that works in our winter.”