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'I don't feel safe,' says Port Coquitlam mom after bear knocks down fence

A bear freeway has emerged between Burke Mountain and the Sun Valley neighbourhood of Port Coquitlam. One bear, who is knocking down fences, is making life difficult for families who want to use their yard.

Alana Pace enjoys living in the Sun Valley neighbourhood of Port Coquitlam, with its lovely trees, popular park and tight-knit community.

But an unannounced guest has been giving her some grief.

In recent weeks a young black bear has been using her yard as a direct gateway to the neighbourhood from Sun Valley Park.

With the neighbourhood close to Hyde Creek, a nature area at DeBoville Slough and blueberry farms to the north and east of her property, it's a popular area for bruins.

As bears have emerged from hibernation, this particular bear makes a bee-line for her house, knocking down her fence multiple times, as well as her neighbours', in its haste to find attractants or unsecured garbage in the neighbourhood.

Pace, who has lived in PoCo for four years but moved with her family to Sun Valley just last year, is surprised at the bruin's determination, but also frustrated at the mess he leaves behind.

"A particular black bear is treating our cedar fence as his personal gate[...] Not only is the property destruction an issue, I worry about the safety of my children, others, our dog."

Family doesn't feel safe in back yard because of bear

"I don't think that anyone particularly is to blame," says Pace. "I just think there needs to be a better approach. It just feels like I can't get my back yard secure at all. I have dogs. I have kids. I yeah, I just don't know what to do." 

Pace, who has children aged five, eight and 10, has been in contact with both the City of Port Coquitlam and the BC Conservation Officer Service, who advise her that keeping garbage secure, including possibly putting it in an enclosure, would help.

Pace uses the "third arm," an additional piece of metal provided by the city to secure the bear resistant lock on her waste bins, but is not sure others are using the additional attachment.

"But many of them are. They're locked in and then he's just sort of throwing the garbage cans around in the hopes that he's going to get a good payout."

Unfortunately, it's likely the bear has found a way into local waste carts, which is why he keeps returning to the area.

Is a garbage enclosure to stop bears a solution to property damage?

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has confirmed multiple calls from the Sun Valley neighbourhood, with the majority of attractants including: garbage, compost, pet food, bird feeders (including hummingbird feeders), fruit trees, dirty barbecues, pop/beer cans and bottles and other recycling.

Meanwhile, the city says it's already working to raise awareness about the importance of securing attractants, as well as collaborating with conservation officers in areas with bear concerns.

In an email, the city's director of community safety and corporate support said conservation officers "alerted us to the bear in this area late last week."

"The bylaw department is doing a proactive blitz in this area," Dominic Long said.

Further, as many as 622 inspections across the city have been carried out in 2022, resulting in 175 calls for service and 35 tickets.

"Residents without a history of solid waste infractions are educated on the city’s solid waste bylaw and are encouraged to get the third arm for their locking device," Long added in an email.

The fine for unsecured garbage is now $500.

Still, Pace remains concerned after the bruin once again knocked down her fence this past weekend. She's considering building an enclosure to deter bears, but is not sure it will make a difference.

"As long as others have their garbage out, it doesn't stop this bear from using our yard as a path to other houses. It [the enclosure] is just expensive and won't be a perfect fix."

The City of Port Coquitlam has a page on its website about bear safety tips.

Additionally, residents can report wildlife conflicts to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 and should visit wildsafebc.com for safety tips and conflict prevention advice.