Living with Bears

Education, enforcement has curbed bear problems, officials say

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Continued education and enforcement of the city's garbage laws has cut down on the number of nuisance bears in Juneau, city and state officials said Tuesday.

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The number of bear incidents are similar to last year, but the reports this season are noticeably lower compared to years before and just after the adoption of the original ordinance in 2001, they said.

"There has been tremendous strides, not only in Dumpster issues but in residential refuse storage," said Ryan Scott, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "It's definitely getting better, but I feel there is definitely room for improvement there."

Continued cooperation between the city, Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service on education and enforcement has resulted in fewer urban bear encounters in recent years, city special projects officer Maria Gladziszewski said.

"It's serving as a model for a lot of other communities," she said.

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In 2002, the Juneau Police Department received 1,041 calls about bears, according to the city's Web site. The following year, the number of calls regarding bears dropped to 592, and in 2004 it fell further to 182 calls.

The number of calls and citations for garbage violations for 2007 have not yet been tabulated by the city, Gladziszewski said, but appears to be comparable to recent years.

"The ordinance has been tremendously effective," she said. "The numbers of calls regarding bears and trash has decreased and is now sort of holding steady, I'd say."

Scott said Fish and Game logged 98 calls regarding bears in 2007, up from 92 calls in 2006. The number of captured bears in 2007 in Juneau is also slightly up compared to last season, but not by much, he said.

In 2006, state biologists captured five bears in Juneau, Scott said. Three of the bears were collared and returned to the Juneau area, one was relocated outside of Juneau, and the other was sent to an animal holding facility at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for research.

In 2007, Fish and Game captured seven bears in Juneau, including two cubs and a sow, he said. The sow was collared and relocated with the cubs in the Juneau area, three were sent to the animal holding facility, and another was collared and released in the Juneau area.

Information gathered from the collared bears is used as one of the ways to engage and educate students in the Juneau School District about living among bears, Scott said.

"We have a coordinated effort about getting information about bears to school kids," Gladziszewski said.

Community Service Officer Bob Dilley said the police department continues to enforce the garbage ordinance. He said 2007 seemed like a "normal summer," but said the ordinance has had noticeable effects on the community since first adopted by the Juneau Assembly.

"That being said, I think there is a lot more people can do to keep their garbage in places where bears can't get into it," Dilley said.

The ordinance requires garbage can lids that will remain secure if tipped over, defines the times people can put out their garbage and allows for fines if someone's garbage has attracted bears.

Even though the weather is becoming colder and fall is in full swing, people need to remain vigilant about how and where they store their garbage, Dilley said.

The bears could still be looking to fatten up for several more weeks, Scott said.

"Bears are getting ready to hibernate, but we still have them out and about," he said. "We have bears that will be out easily until the end of this month and could be well into November."

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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