On Vancouver Island it’s easy to identify the newcomers. See how long it takes for them to open a trash can. Or not.
My first time took about fifteen minutes. I went to a public trash can, tried to open the lid and found it locked. I circled the bin twice looking for alternate openings or secret buttons. I thought it might be like those automatic hand dryers and I tried waving at it. Nothing. Belatedly, it occurred to me that the box couldn’t be electronic since there was no power source. It was a squat and ugly steel box. Unplugged, unpowered and impenetrable. Eventually, I stuffed my litter in my pocket and took it home. As I walked away, I’m sure I heard someone sniggering in the bushes.
I found out later that the bins have a secret lever inside the handle. It’s a latch which only animals with opposable thumbs can squeeze to open. The design is common to all public trash bins in the Pacific Rim Park and area. With newer bins, it even has instructions on how to use.
The bins are a deterrent to the other trash bandits in Canada: Bears.
There are three types of bears here: polar bears, grizzly bears and black bears. The most common is the black bear, found in the forests of nearly every province and territory. Every province except for the nation’s smallest, Prince Edward Island. There’s not been a bear sighting in PEI since the 1930s … except for these teddy bears caught in a Covid inspired bear-hunt.
Bears are opportunistic omnivores. In the wild, they will eat forest fruit, berries, insects, coastal crustaceans and wild salmon. Given a chance though, they will happily feast on garbage and become dependant on food from dump sites and household garbage bins.
On Vancouver Island, people are constantly reminded to be Bear Aware and secure their garbage. Bear-proof garbage bins are recommended and failing that, garbage needs to be literally locked up. At my island home, garbage is stored in a big steel dumpster and secured with padlock & key.
Unlike the trash pandas (raccoons) in Toronto, the bear bandits are bigger than the average human. On all fours, black bears are about 90cm (3 feet) tall. Standing, from nose to tail they measure up to 180cm (6 feet) tall. Weighing in at 92 kg to 270kg (200-600lbs) they are an imposing sight. Bears typically avoid people but they can become acclimatized to humans and territorial about food sources. Which is all bad news if their food source is your garbage bin.
So, what do you do if you encounter a bear? Here’s what the Parks & Rec people say:
But depending on who & where you are, your response to a bear in your backyard may differ.
Bear-safe in Toronto, Canada. April 2021