With autumn approaching, Wildsafe BC has begun canvassing the Merritt area to see if residents are adhering to the new bylaw that prohibits residents from placing their garbage out too early for pickup.

The new bylaw states that garbage bins cannot be placed curbside before 5 a.m. on collection day.

The penalty for breaking this bylaw is $100 fine.

City council unanimously approved the bylaw this spring.

Any bins found to be non-compliant are receiving a yellow warning sticker from Wildsafe that states garbage left for pickup overnight is a bear attractant.

Periodic garbage bin tagging will be conducted until the end of September.

Wildsafe has been conducting this education program for about two weeks now and so far community co-ordinator Mandy Ross says residents have been adhering to the bylaw for the most part.

Ross patrolled parts of Merritt on August 25 and said she only found a single garbage bin out early in Collettville.

The Diamond Vale area was a different story, however, as Ross found 13 bins placed curbside at about midnight.

“The Collettville area’s definitely been a higher conflict area with bears, so it might not be that the word is out yet on Diamond Vale to keep those bins in,” Ross said.

She also said a bylaw officer was out in that area that night issuing warnings about the new bylaw.

City of Merritt planning and development manager Sean O’Flaherty told the Herald via email that compliance with the new bylaw has been high so far in the community.

“There’s a bit of work to do educating the minority who have not made themselves aware of the new bylaw regulation, or have chosen not to make proper arrangements because the new regulations aren’t convenient for them, but overall the community has responded very well and everyone should feel part of reducing human-wildlife conflict and ultimately saving bears from being destroyed,” O’Flaherty wrote.

Ross said the tagging program’s main focus is on Merritt at the moment.

She said at this point bears are out looking for food, and berry sources have been drying up.

Ross encourages people to email her at tnrd@wildsafebc.com.

Wildsafe is an education program delivered in partnership by the BC Conservation Foundation and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Wildsafe is also loaning out bear-resistant garbage bins in Merritt.

There are 20 of these bins residents can borrow with the option to purchase it after six weeks.