Dealing with bears

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2001

Garbage-related bear problems seem like such an ancient issue. While half of the world in bear country has dealt with it 20 years ago, Juneau is just bearly starting.

I am a naturalist and bear ecologist and a strong proponent of the idea that bears and people, given the fair opportunity, can peacefully co-exist. It is utterly disrespectful, however, to lure bears into town with naturally strong attractants such as salmon (Salmon Creek, etc.), and to then entice them to move further into town with improperly stored garbage, only to later dispose of them because they have become too big of a "management problem."

The Tongass National Forest is one of the world's last strongholds for brown and black bears and Juneau has the wonderful opportunity and responsibility to be a bear-friendly example for other communities in the Southeast and elsewhere. In a town in which its citizens depend so much on the health of the natural environment, which most of the tourists come to see, it can't be too difficult to find enough dollars to turn this problem around.

There's hardly a shop in this city that does not have a bear sculpture or carving towering over the entrance to lure the unknowing tourist to leave yet another bundle of green bills behind.

Good luck and congratulations to the mayor and the members of the Urban Bear Committee for finally making this issue a priority. I would be happy to assist in any way I can.

Reno Sommerhalder

Alberta, Canada

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