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Time to grin and bear it

Posted: April 9, 2012 - 12:05am

It’s the time of year when our region’s resident brown and black bears wake up and smell your coffee, as well as your coffee grounds, fruit rinds and last week’s ham sandwich. There’s nothing funny about having several hundred pounds of black bear in your yard ripping up your trash can or fish smoker, particularly if the bear is between you and your home.

Be bear aware and help our furry neighbors stay out of man-made trouble, because trouble-causing bears often meet an unnecessarily early end. Certain areas of town are more likely than others to have bear-human interface zones, but everyone shares the responsibility of looking out for our state’s wild creatures.

Juneau’s refuse collection rules make it illegal to leave garbage cans out overnight, so someone in the house must be the designated early-morning garbage can-mover — no earlier than 4 a.m. for curb placement.

If a bear (or a mom and some cubs) have it in for your exposed trash can during the pickup times there’s not much one can do about that. Short of investing in a costly, highly bear-resistant can there are common-sense ways of minimizing bear-garbage encounters and avoiding fines starting at $50 for maintaining a bear attraction nuisance:

• Lock it up: It’s city law. Homes without secure areas like a garage must have closable trash sheds. Plywood may not stand up to a direct assault, but trash sheds are a line of defense.

• Bag it up: Fish and meat waste become quite fragrant. Sealing such waste inside plastic food storage bags cuts down on odors that attract scavengers. Keeping such waste frozen until garbage day is an option for those with extra freezer space.

• Clean fish when you catch them: When fishing, clean fish and dispose of waste and parts that won’t be used on site in a responsible fashion. Don’t bring home trouble.

• Bungee it: A bungee cord won’t keep a bear out of a can, but it will keep a can lid tightly sealed, minimizing odors and escaped garbage from tipping.

Here are some other ways to keep bears from making your home a regular stop:

• Replace worn cans. Damaged cans with cracks let out the odors.

• Gardeners with experience already know this — compost heaps containing food scraps can also be bear magnets. Locate any compost heaps well away from structures.

• Take in bird feeders until bears go into hibernation. Bears love birdseed.

• Do not leave pet food outside, and don’t leave pets unattended on a leash or chain.

• Fishy-smelling fishing gear like waders and nets, if left outside, may attract bears. Give them a rinse and store them securely.

• Don’t leave smokers unattended, and clean food from barbecue and smoker grills between uses.

Bears spend much of their time looking for something to eat. Please don’t let their next meal come from your home’s or business’ trash can if that can be avoided.

Need more information? Go to juneau.org/bears for the official rules and a printable pamphlet about living in bear country.

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