Don't leave bears a 'midnight snack,' keep trash inside overnight, southwest residents told

This is one of several new signs put up by the City of Calgary alongside Discovery Ridge Boulevard S.W.  (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)
This is one of several new signs put up by the City of Calgary alongside Discovery Ridge Boulevard S.W. (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)

The southwest Calgary community of Discovery Ridge is hoping an education blitz focused on living alongside bears will help to avoid future bear deaths in that neighbourhood.

Last fall, a female black bear and three cubs were killed by Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Services after being attracted from the neighbouring wilderness of Griffith Woods Park and the Tsuut'ina Nation, which spans west to Bragg Creek.

The sow and cubs made nighttime visits into residential streets and driveways for weeks, getting into bins and garbage, becoming heavily food conditioned and posing a public safety risk as a result, ultimately leading to their deaths.

The Discovery Ridge Community Association, City of Calgary and Alberta Fish and Wildlife don't want a repeat of that series of events, so they're focusing on how people manage their garbage carts.

The city has placed large signs all over the community urging residents to keep bears safe by not putting black, blue and green trash carts out overnight.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

"Anything that bears find attractive will draw them in, and residential garbage has been identified as one of them," said Erica Baranik, a waste diversion specialist with the city.

"The No. 1 tip is to not put your cart out overnight. Don't give bears a midnight snack. The second is don't put them out before 5 a.m. on collection day, and then put the carts away as soon as possible after collection," said Baranik.

Residents are also being asked to store their carts inside their garages, or similar secured place, when they're not out for collection, so bears can't access them.

Baranik says city employees have been going door-to-door in the community answering questions and getting feedback from residents on their ask.

She says overall the feedback has been positive and residents want to do their part to prevent future bear deaths, even if it means some inconvenience to their routines.

The city says it's been working in partnership with Alberta Fish and Wildlife and the local community association, which first reached out for help to find solutions last year.

"There are always wildlife encounters throughout the summer months every year, but last year was particularly tragic," said Jacquie Hansen-Sydenham with the community association's wildlife committee.

"The community was upset and was very vocal about wanting something done," she said.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

Hansen-Sydenham says a group of residents spent the winter researching to come up with some clear solutions to their bear problem.

"All of the videos that all of our residents got from their doorbell cams of the bears tossing bins, it was all between 1 and 4 a.m.," she said. "So the facts substantiated themselves that that is the solution."

"We're in education and community mode right now. It's up to us to present the facts and the solutions and hope that the majority of people do it," said Hansen-Sydenham.

"We're asking people to do it because it's the right thing to do," she said. "I don't like my bins in my garage either, but I'll put them in."

She says as well as changes in habits, the community is also looking at wildlife-proof bins, which are used in other parts of Canada where bears are an issue.

She's hoping the neighbourhood could one day become a pilot community to trial bear-proof residential carts in Calgary.

Hansen-Sydenham says she hopes starting the education and awareness drive early in the season will mean a bear-free summer, and, hopefully, a bear-free future.