Trash strategy beginning to bear fruit in Juneau

Posted: Monday, September 09, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Juneau city officials say they are beginning to see progress one year after new local laws were put into place to keep hungry bears away from trash.

Trash bins with metal lids have stymied some hungry bruins while education and enforcement have made residents more vigilant about how they handle their garbage.

''We're doing more as a city than any place in Alaska,'' said Neil Barten, area wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game. ''We're gaining ground we're not going to have to give back.''

Last year Juneau began requiring that trash be kept inside or stored in bear-resistant containers until the morning of garbage pickup day. This year, the Juneau Assembly also requires metal lids be installed on Dumpsters in city-designated ''bear problem areas.''

Police received 344 bear-related calls between July and August -- the peak months for bear activity in Juneau -- down from 461 calls for the same period last year.

There have also been 214 citations issued to residents for trash problems and another 300 warnings written this summer, said Community Services Officer Bob Dilley.

But officials caution against reading too much into the numbers since routine sightings may go unreported or people may fear they will receive a garbage citation.

So far, metal lids have been installed on more than half of the 240 dumpsters owned by restaurants or located in areas where bears frequently raid trash. There are 600 Dumpsters in Juneau.

Large male bears have been killed on Douglas Island and the Switzer Creek area of Juneau this summer by Fish and Game officials due to garbage complaints. A sow and three cubs were also moved from the Lemon Creek area for the same reason.

In addition, there have been multiple reports of cars hitting, injuring and killing bears on local roads.

Local bear activist and photographer Pat Costello, who served on a city committee that crafted the new local law, said there is still room for improvement in Juneau.

''I certainly think there's been progress made. But when you see Fish and Game killing bears and bears getting hit by cars, it's not going as well as it could,'' he said. ''It's a key indicator things could be going better.''

Jeff Wilcox, who lives in Lemon Creek and keeps his garbage in a trailer, said bears don't bother him much. Old-timers in Douglas didn't have a problem with bears in the 1930s because the animals were shot, he said.

''There was no learned behavior because it was dead,'' said Wilcox.

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