With the first bears of the season out and about in Juneau, state and local officials are stepping up trash education efforts.
Neighbors reported a large bear in the Lemon Creek area last week and Juneau Police Department Community Service Officer Bob Dilley said he's seen signs of bruins getting into garbage in town. He's been writing trash tickets all winter.
"People need to keep their garbage in a bear-resistant structure, in a shed or garage. You can take it out after 4 a.m. on pickup day, otherwise it needs to be secure," he said. "And this should be common sense, but when you take it out, it needs to have a tight-fitting lid and it shouldn't be overloaded."
The city expanded the boundaries of four "bear problem areas" last month, requiring metal lids on more Dumpsters. Dilley said he expects to start serving notice on out-of-compliance Dumpsters soon. More information about the city's bear problem areas is available from City Hall or at www.juneau.org/bears.
Kristen Romanoff, a wildlife education specialist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said people also need to put their bird feeders away and store pet food inside to keep bears away from residential areas.
"It's easy over the winter to get lax when the bears are sleeping," she cautioned.
Meanwhile, Discovery Southeast is sponsoring a Neighborhood Bear Awareness Orientation from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School library. The nonprofit nature and outdoors education group is looking for individuals, neighborhood associations, churches and youth groups willing to go door-to-door in Juneau to talk to people about proper garbage storage and bears, said Discovery Southeast Executive Director Larry West.
"We're trying to identify people who are willing to work with neighborhoods, so to speak, to minimize conflicts with bears," he said. "Really just about anybody could wear that hat."
Representatives from the city, the police department, the U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Game will be at the meeting Wednesday to answer questions.
"The end goal really is to save as many bears as possible from their own demise and save people from the headache, conflicts and danger of living in bear country," West said. "We're really looking for people's suggestions, assistance and ideas people might have to live safely with bears and keep bears out of our trash."
Discovery Southeast also plans to deliver 105 presentations about bears and trash in kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms by October, West said. The city has provided funding for the education effort.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.