Avoid putting bears - and people - at risk

Posted: Friday, August 04, 2000

Those of us who live in Juneau oftentimes forget we're in a national forest - the wilderness is in our backyard.

It's easy to forget, with asphalt, buildings, cars and airplanes all around us. But the fact is nature - and its animals - surround us.

And it's imperative that we respect and act appropriately toward these animals, especially bears. Unfortunately, as was demonstrated last week and in several other recent instances, people aren't. The result is that bears are needlessly killed simply because they have become too accustomed to people and garbage.

Last week a healthy 140-pound black bear was shot and killed by Juneau police officers after repeated sightings and problems around Calhoun Street. The sad part of all this was that an autopsy showed the bear's stomach was filled with five or six pounds of cracked corn.

Obviously, someone put out the corn to feed birds or whatever. The end result, however, is that the bear found the food, continued to forage through other garbage and was killed.

There are constant public service announcements pointing out that ``garbage kills bears.'' It's a fact. People who are irresponsible with their garbage leave the door open for bears to start eating it. And once they start dieting on garbage, it's almost impossible to stop them short of killing them.

The answer is simple. Don't leave your garbage out until it's time for the pickup. Tighten down garbage lids, store them where bears can't get to them. At the same time, the city should step up its enforcement efforts to ensure people handle their garbage correctly.

If we don't, two things will happen: More bears will be have to be shot and we open up the possibility of a bear attack against humans. But just take care of your garbage and we will be able to continue enjoying our wilderness safely.

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