All of us need to act

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2001

Time to secure our trash. This means all of us!

In the next few weeks the city is installing bear-proof trash containers around town. They will also start giving out more tickets for violations of the new bear ordinance. I am glad they are taking action. It is time to get tough.

The increased effort to prevent bears from getting garbage will have some consequences. If the new initiative is successful, more than a few bears that are heavily dependent on dumpsters and trash cans will find nothing to eat on their normal foraging routes.

I have been involved in bear problems at landfills since the '80s because of my job at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. But I am writing this primarily as a concerned resident of Juneau. It doesn't take a bear expert to predict what will happen around here this fall. I can assure you the natural food bears are supposed to eat will be the last thing on the minds of some of these bears. Bears can cover lots of territory overnight and they will.

Many of us who have never known bear problems at home will be visited by the boldest, most persistent urban bears we've ever seen. They are skilled at defeating the standard (bungee over the top of the garbage can) defenses that work on timid bears. If they get into our trash and get food we will be doubly cursed. First, if the city does its job, we will get ticketed and fined. Then, the bear will keep coming back night after night following any trace of food odor. Our kids, our familes and property will be in danger. Our neighbors won't be too happy about it either.

Please wake up and face this problem. The heat is coming on. The coffee is about to boil over. Bears can threaten your safety if they find food in your neighborhood. Let's work together as a community to eliminate all urban bear attractants. Don't rely on the city to do all the work. Discuss this problem (politely) with your neighbors. Offer to help if they don't have time or resources to do what is necessary.

As this process continues, some bears may become too threatening. It may be necessary to kill some of them. The bears are not to blame for the problem, yet they will pay the price. Our thoughtlessness and bad habits are the problem so we need to make the effort to fix it. Secure your trash. Put away your bird feeders until winter. Finally, don't ever feed a bear deliberately or tolerate anybody who does.

Glenn Miller


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