With more than 20 bear sightings since June, the City of Coquitlam has enacted a temporary ban on bringing any food into three local parks.
Picnics, snacks and garbage are now banned in at the Hockaday, Galette and Karley Crescent parks along the Coquitlam River as safety measure both for humans and the hungry black bears.
“The bears have been taking people’s picnics and lunches and they’re just getting too close,” Coquitlam environment manager Caresse Selk told Global News. “We’ve removed the garbage cans from the park so we don’t have smelly bear attractants here.”
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Visitors are still welcome in all three parks, Selk added, but are asked to take their garbage out with them and restrict their consumables to bottled beverages only.
She said one bear in particular seems to be “habituated” to human food.
Anyone approached by a black bear is advised to stay calm, back away slowly, and resist the urge to whip out their cell phones for a photo in lieu of leaving promptly.
Area resident Kora Leith said she believes picture-taking has been a problem as of late.
“They take good care of themselves and they stay far enough away, they’re normally on the other side of the river,” she said at Hockaday on Wednesday.
“In my experience honestly, there’s not more bears coming out, I feel like people are just getting more used to it now and they’re wanting to get a little closer, wanting to get more photos.”
Leith said it’s a “shame” the municipality had to bring in a food ban but she understands the reasoning.
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Another resident, Tia Guglielmucci, said her family experienced their “closest” bear encounter yet at the park last week, when one bear came walking up the Coquitlam River toward them.
She said she picked up her five-year-old and the family backed away slowly, but the bear followed them practically to their car.
“We just gave him some space and ended up coming down river and finding a new spot,” she recalled.
“He was probably 12 feet away from my kid, so it’s a little bit too close for comfort, but we’re trying to teach them that it’s their neighbourhood, it’s the bears’ area and we’re visiting here — and we make our way out when see the bears and we don’t panic.”
Meanwhile, Selk said Coquitlam is taking an education-first approach to enforcing the food ban.
Bylaw patrols in the park, however, have increased.
Anyone who sees wildlife attractants, improper storage of attractants, or wildlife accessing attractants is asked to call the city at 604-927-3660 or email UrbanWildlife@coquitlam.ca.
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