As fall starts to take shape around the Tri-Cities, it's the time of year when bears are at their busiest foraging for food before their winter sleep. That has conservation officers in the area reminding residents to be extra careful to not leave household garbage outside.
And to prove they're serious, conservation officers in the next couple of weeks will be performing audits in Coquitlam neighbourhoods to make sure people are following the rules.
"People really need to be diligent with their garbage. They're placing people at risk," said BC Conservation Service Sgt. Josh Lockwood.
"They're [bears] always in search of food, and this time of year their drive for food is substantially higher."
Specifically, officers will be making sure residents are keeping trash off the curbside prior to garbage pickup day.
While disobeying provincial laws can land a resident with a $345 fine, Lockwood indicated the audits are generally meant to educate people.
However, some repeat offenders will get a ticket.
"Our main function is to educate people so we don't have to attend and bears don't have to die because of garbage," he said.
The audits are expected to take place in the northeast part of Coquitlam and Burke Mountain.
The City of Coquitlam has also been busy with its own campaign to educate residents.
Drake Stephens, the city's urban wildlife coordinator, said the municipality hired a student to visit about
1,000 homes to either warn residents or provide information about the city's garbage bylaw.
Under the bylaw, nothing can be put out curbside before 5: 30 a.m. on garbage pickup day.
The fine is $500.
In one case, a fine was issued to a homeowner.
But in general, Stephens said compliance is pretty good, and much better than a few years ago.
"When they [residents] hear the fine is $500, they don't usually want a second visit," he told The NOW.
Stephens suggested the biggest problem now is getting residents to use their green cans for kitchen and organic waste.
In a few years, Metro Vancouver will be mandating all food waste be put in the green containers.
He noted the green cans tend to get picked up earlier in the day than regular garbage, which means food waste is left out in the heat of the day, attracting bears.
As for the bear season, the number of sightings and calls for service are actually slightly down from previous years.
Conservation officers have dealt with 699 calls about bears in Coquitlam as of the end of September, compared to 1,117 for the entire 2011.
In Port Coquitlam, there have been 474 calls for bears, compared to 694 in 2011, and in Port Moody 318 bruins sparked a phone call, compared to 422 the previous year.
That's not to say there haven't been any bear-human conflicts in the Tri-Cities.
In August, the City of Coquitlam, Metro Vancouver and blueberry farms in the area agreed to shut down Oliver Road near Minnekhada Park for the month.
The area was not only attracting bears, but curious residents looking for a glimpse of the wild animals.
The farmers suggested the human traffic was not only hurting their harvest efforts, but putting people and bears at risk.
The road was reopened in September once the blueberry harvest finished.
Though bear season never seems to end in Metro Vancouver, conservation officers note calls do tend to tail off by December.