Bear-proof garbage containers that will replace city containers downtown should arrive in Juneau late tonight, City Manager Dave Palmer told the Juneau Assembly on Monday.
Bears have been hitting unsecured city trash cans downtown on a regular basis. A group of Juneau residents calling itself the Urban Bear Patrol has been tracking bear activity along South Franklin Street over the past couple of weeks.
Palmer said eight bear-proof containers are scheduled to arrive at 11 tonight and will be installed downtown to address the problem. Another eight containers should arrive later this week. A total of 55 have been ordered from a Whitehorse company, he said.
Palmer said workers checked the city's trash containers downtown at night and found they were about half-full.
""It's not an issue of volume as much as bears are learning they're a source" of food, he said.
Some bear-proof containers already are in place in city parks and along trails. Whitehorse Motors, which has a contract with the city, distributes the bear-proof cans throughout Alaska and the Yukon, general manager Rick Nielsen said. Juneau's cans will be painted navy blue.
"They're an angled container with a gravity lid and a bear-proof latch," he said. "They're fastened to the sidewalk and there's no way a bear can get its claws into the container. You have to flip up the palm of your hand to open the latch."
A new city ordinance went into effect this summer that requires residents to place their garbage in a bear-resistant container or inside until 4 a.m. on the morning of pickup.
Capt. Tom Porter said the Juneau Police Department has received 115 bear calls in the past two weeks and issued 47 warnings and 5 citations under the city's litter laws.
The department is issuing fewer warnings than when the new garbage ordinance first took effect, Porter added. Earlier in the summer, the department was issuing about 80 garbage-related warnings a week, he said.
"We're looking at positive signs. We have less warnings, not because we're working less but because people are complying," he said.
Opinions about the city's bear problem drew a mixed reaction from Assembly members on Monday.
Assembly member Don Etheridge said the police department has been actively following up on complaints and thanked Community Service Officer Mike Tagaban for his work in addressing the garbage problem. Assembly member Marc Wheeler suggested it might be time to bring back the now-disbanded ad hoc Urban Bear Committee.
Mayor Sally Smith said that bears got on top of and smashed the garbage container she uses, despite clips and bolts intended to secure it.
"I think we've got a growing problem," she said.
Meanwhile, the Urban Bear Patrol is sponsoring a volunteer cleanup of the area along Gastineau Avenue and South Franklin Street from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, according to Mark Farmer, former bear committee chairman. Volunteers should meet on the fourth floor of the Marine Park Garage downtown. The city is providing a dump truck and garbage bags, Palmer said.
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