By Richard Bell
HRM’s green bins have been taking a ferocious beating for the last several weeks in Lake Echo’s Mountain View Estates. Several bears, looking for a quick way to gain weight after the long winter, have been ripping and clawing the bins open to get at the tasty treats inside.
Elsewhere in Nova Scotia, people have been socially isolating to keep Covid-19 under control. But in Mountain View, they’re being extra careful about going outdoors at all for fear of running into a bear.
The Mountain View Estates Facebook page has been filled with complaints about the marauding bears, complete with photos of bears pawing green bins, perched precariously on top of bird feeder poles, and just generally being bears.
Enter the Department of Lands and Forestry
There have been so many complaints that the Department of Lands and Forestry has entered the fray in a partnership with HRM, recruiting residents of Mountain View Estates for the Bear Resistant Green Bin Trial. The trail is a full-scale field experiment to test whether there are any green bin locks capable of withstanding a hungry bear. HRM bought 35 test locks, and L&F bought 140.
Several weeks ago, residents received a letter asking them to participate in this one-month experiment. Some participants would get “bear-resistant” locks for their green bins, while others would not get locks. (L&F will be giving locks to the non-lock group at the end of the experiment). The experiment requires that both groups fill out a daily questionnaire on bear sightings and the state of their green bins.
In an interview with the Cooperator, Jeremy Smith, the Wildlife Technician for the Jeddore office of the Department of Lands and Forestry, explained the origins of the Bear Resistant Green Bin Trial, and the department’s over-all approach to managing bears across the province.
“We do a lot of education to get people to get rid of attractions that cause bears to hang around,” Smith said. “If we can get people to clean up these attractions, we usually have a high success rate at keeping the number of nuisance bears down.” Attractions include things like green bins, bird feeders, and people intentionally leaving food out to attract bears.
“There are 350 homes in Mountain View Estates in three-quarters of a square kilometer,” Smith said, “so bears don’t have to go far to go from house to house.”
“There’s no such thing as a bear-proof bin,” Smith said, “just bear-resistant. If it takes a bear 45 minutes to get in to a bin, the bear has to figure if this effort is worth the reward. So far, we’re had good success with one of the locks. The bears smash the bins around a bit, and then move on. If we can prove these locks are helpful, that gives HRM’s waste management personnel an incentive to include these locks.”
If a bear becomes too much of a nuisance, Lands and Forestry has two options, either relocation or putting the bear down. “Relocation isn’t a great option,” Smith said. “Bears will travel large distances to return. And bears are very territorial, so a relocated bear may get injured by other bears.”
Smith said that putting bears down was a “last resort. We do have a
partnership with Feed Nova Scotia, so the bear gets processed into meat, and distributed to people who will eat bear meat, so the bear isn’t wasted.”
Smith said that reports from the first week suggested that the locks were having some positive effect, but that the final results won’t be available until later this summer.
Photo Credit: Keri Ettinger