Orphaned cub killed

Garbage ordinance goes into effect today

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

The state Department of Fish and Game euthanized a black bear cub Tuesday after his mother was shot by police on Threadneedle Street in the Mendenhall Valley.

Fish and Game biologist Neil Barten said the department tried to find a zoo for the cub but was unsuccessful.

"We could have released it, but the chances of it surviving were zero. With the mother dead, we didn't have much choice," he said.

Police said they shot the mother after it attacked neighborhood dogs and growled at officers. Mark Kissel said he woke up at about 1 a.m. to the sound of his three huskies barking. When he and his wife saw the bear chasing their dogs, they called the police.

"It set into motion a chain of events that was regrettable. I don't fault the police for what they did. The bear was acting pretty aggressive," he said.

It was dark at the time and no one knew there was cub until later that morning, he said. His dogs weren't injured, but one of the huskies had hair missing from his coat near his shoulder.

"He was definitely at close quarters with the bear," he said.

Neighbor Kristeen Brooks said the bear ran through her fence and pulled garbage into the yard next-door.

"To me, there was no point in killing it at all. The bear was scared," she said. "What kind of bear is going to hang out in a yard with dogs? It was being protective. The cops should have known."

Brooks spent part of the day watching the cub until Fish and Game officials arrived.

Police Chief Mel Personett said officers don't like to shoot bears, especially in neighborhoods with a high concentration of people.

"Understand that it's a high-risk operation," he said. "We're very aware of that. We do not like doing it. It's truly the final option to the problem ... It's not something we do lightly."

Meanwhile, a new city ordinance goes into effect today that tightens garbage restrictions in an effort to protect bears. Trash cans must be labeled with the owner's address, and garbage shouldn't be outside until 4 a.m. on pickup day unless it is in a bear-resistant container or a closed garage.

Mark Farmer, chairman of the city's Ad Hoc Urban Bear Committee, said the new ordinance is aimed at dealing with garbage issues so bears are not shot. Tuesday's events were unfortunate, he said.

"People need to be responsible for their garbage. We live with wilderness surrounding us, and animals are our neighbors," he said. "I'm sad today, but I'm guardedly optimistic that what we've come up with will help."

The Juneau Police Department and the city's Community Development Department are in charge of enforcement. Officials say the goal is compliance.

"We'll make contact with people and let them know that the laws have changed. If we're not getting compliance, it's a violation and they will be issued a citation," Personett said. "Anytime there's a change in the law, you've got to give people fair and adequate warning."

In most cases, officers will issue red warning tags before writing a ticket, said city environmental zoning officer Dan Garcia.

"We're going to try to work with folks on the new aspects of the code," he said.

Improper storage of waste is an infraction that will be enforced starting today. A first-time violation brings a $25 fine.

The city still is refining a section of the code that covers more serious violations such as attracting bears on purpose or failing to respond to a garbage problem. Officers won't charge people with garbage-related misdemeanors until the code changes go into effect, probably in about six weeks, Personett said.

Last year, the police department responded to more than 1,000 bear calls. A common sense approach to garbage management should make a big difference, Personett said.

"I think it's good for the community, it's good for the bear population and it helps us out because we're displacing our staff to respond to (bear calls)," he said.

At the city Community Development Department, Garcia is soliciting designs for bear-resistant containers from the public and hopes to make sample diagrams available. Containers don't have to be bear proof, just bear resistant.

"This season we'll be working with people on developing a sound refuse system rather than a strict enforcement approach. It will be a challenge for everyone in the community to look at how they're managing their trash," he said.

Barten said the ordinance will help from a public safety standpoint. "The less garbage that is accessible, the less time bears will spend in neighborhoods. And that means safer neighborhoods," he said.

Under the old code, homeowners only needed to have garbage in a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, Personett said.

Last year, five bears were killed in Juneau.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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