Last Sunday morning Bob Carroll discovered that his neighbours trash had been dumped across his lawn after a hungry bear dragged the garbage can onto Carroll’s property and ripped it open.
Carroll is just one of many Castlegar residents who was frustrated to discover that the new bear-resistant garbage cans purchased by the City of Castlegar are not bear-proof, and that bears can still go rooting through their contents.
“If you look at the pictures, you can see that this was a very determined bear, whatever was in there he wanted it out,” said Carroll.
Asked what had led him to believe that the cans were bear-proof, Carroll admitted that he’d come to that conclusion on his own.
“I hate to say it: I guess I probably drew my on conclusion about them being bear-proof,” he said.
The bear-resistant cans are meant to make it more difficult for bears to access the attractants inside, but with enough determination a bear can still get in. For this reason, Castlegar residents are encouraged to take the same precautions they did before the cans were introduced.
“These carts are designed to deter bears from an easy meal, but it is to be expected that food conditioned bears will test carts that are left outside in the open,” said Jenny Wallace, Castlegar WildSafeBC Community Coordinator. “It is still recommended that these carts be stored securely inside a garbage or locked shed to ensure bears are not tempted. If you absolutely cannot find a safe place to store your cart between collection days, it is essential that both clips are locked at all times. In addition, you may need to consider chaining the cart to a secure anchor point to prevent a bear from dragging the whole thing away.”
Wallace also recommends throwing odorous scraps like meat and bacon grease into a ziplock bag in the freezer and adding it to the bin only on collection day.
Of course collection day presents its own problems.
The clips that make the bins bear-resistant have to be removed for collection, and this gives bears easy access while the bins are still waiting to be picked up.
“This is not a new problem as collection day has always meant an abundance of garbage left vulnerable on the curb,” said Wallace. “Luckily, the majority of garbage related bear conflict happens when bears access unsecured garbage between collection days, usually under the cover of darkness. Keeping garbage securely stored during the week is the most important thing residents can do to prevent conflicts.”
Wallace also reminds residents that garbage can only be on the curb between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on collection day, and not the night before.
The hope is that making it harder for bears to access our garbage will eventually teach them that coming into town does provide the easy access to food that it once did.
“It will take some time, but eventually, bears will learn that it’s not worth the effort and risk to bother with these new bear resistant carts. Coupled with continued education and community support, it is expected that these new carts will help to dramatically reduce human-bear conflict in the long run,” explained Wallace. “We can ensure this program’s success by keeping the carts locked at all times between collection days and doing what we can to store the carts securely.”