A tag on a garbage bin may not seem like much, but when it comes to wild animals, including bears, it can make all the difference.
Garbage is the most reported attractant across the province that leads to conflict with black bears. It also leads to conflict with a variety of other wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, rats, ravens, deer and more.
To reduce these conflicts, WildSafeBC community co-ordinators are performing an educational activity called bin tagging in their communities with the support of local funding partners. It consists of placing a highly visible and removable sticker on containers set curbside on public property the day before collection or outside of times stated in local bylaws.
“First, and most importantly, is that it encourages residents to modify their behaviour when it comes to placing garbage or before they should,” said Carlie O’Brien, the Vanderhoof WildsafeBC co-ordinator. “Black bears are one of the most common species reported to the conservation officer service every year. And garbage is the most reported attractant in the area.”
Not leaving your trash waiting at the curb overnight, and storing it in a secure indoor location until collection time are ways of reducing attractants, as is keeping your containers as clean as possible. Even an empty garbage can, O’Brien said, can still be emitting odours that draw wildlife in.
The main goal, she added, is removing access to these attractants to prevent food conditioning wildlife.
“It’s a learned behaviour where bears begin to associate people and their property with a big reward. This can lead to a bunch of different safety concerns,” said O’Brien. “When there is the absence of the food reward, bears are less likely to return to the area which helps keep the wildlife wild and it improves community safety.”
Freezing smelly food waste until the morning of collection is another way to reduce attractants, O’Brien added.
“Garbage is not the only attractant to bears,” said O’Brien, adding that things like grease traps and bird feeders can also be part of the picture along with garbage that’s left to sit on the curb overnight.
“It’s a super easy target for bears and other wildlife,” said O Brien, adding that without addressing this root conflict, bears may continue to be destroyed as relocation is rarely an effective solution.