Bear-saving plan mandates garbage pickup

Posted: Friday, January 12, 2001

The mayor's ad hoc bear advisory committee has recommended making bird feeders illegal, garbage pickup compulsory and bear-resistant garbage containers mandatory in some cases. The panel also called for establishing a bear-problem hot line and suggested the urban bear be adopted as the symbol of Juneau.

The group met Thursday night for nearly three hours to discuss and vote on ideas for solving Juneau's chronic problem of garbage-eating bears.

The committee was named by Mayor Sally Smith and includes Fish and Game area biologist Neil Barten, photojournalist Mark Farmer, city environmental zoning officer Dan Garcia, Police Chief Mel Personett, Arrow Refuse manager Glenn Thompson, Juneau Assembly member Marc Wheeler and Juneau photographer Pat Costello.

"We adopted everything except putting garbage offenders' names in the newspaper," Farmer, the committee chairman, said this morning.

The committee eventually will suggest the assembly enact a broad ordinance that rewrites existing measures dealing with garbage pickup, bear-resistant containers and related matters, Farmer said.

"And then we're looking to the police chief to issue regulations to identify problems and to implement additional bear efforts," he said.

For bird lovers, hummingbird feeders would be OK, but seeds from regular bird feeders draw bears.

"This is also the view of the Audubon Society and birders are behind this (ban on feeders) as well," he said. The ban would run from April 1 to Nov. 1.

Mandatory garbage pickup would be a major part of the new program, Farmer said, along with compulsory residents' identification on garbage cans and lids.

"That way, the police could put a citation on the can, much as they do on a car," Farmer said.

Chief Personett had expressed concern earlier that police department resources in the past had been stretched thin by frequent responses to the presence of city bears.

"The police department is not in the business of watching bears eat garbage," Personett said this morning. And with the possibility of increased oversight, "I'm going to be hard-pressed to take patrol officers and retask them to trash patrol," he said. "Education will be an important part of this program, with the goal being to reduce the interface between humans and bears."

The committee plans to hold public hearings on its views and recommendations in Douglas, downtown and the Mendenhall Valley, Farmer said. After the hearings, an executive summary of the proceedings and of the committee's deliberations will be presented to the assembly for consideration.

Juneau residents have to learn that the problem is not bears, but garbage, Farmer said.

Fern Chandonnet can be reached at

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