JUNEAU (AP) -- Juneau does not have a bear problem, the city has a garbage problem, according to initial findings of a committee researching ways to cut down on encounters between humans and black bears.
Mark Farmer, chairman of a committee appointed by Mayor Sally Smith, told KINY radio that members are distilling the nature of the problem and what needs to be done.
Farmer says the committee is focusing on neighborhoods with the highest number of bear calls, which include downtown.
Juneau police shot at least five bears this year. The carcass of a sixth, shot by an unknown person, washed up in Gastineau Channel north of downtown.
Bear sightings often peak in late summer and early fall as bears aggressively try to fatten up before winter. Police field dozens of calls per night but only respond if there is an immediate danger to life and property.
Police Sgt. Tom Wehnes said earlier 2000 has been one of the worst years for bear-human encounters in his 15 years experience.
In September, a police officer spotted a bear trying to open a garbage can secured with bungee cords. The officer yelled at the bear, which started toward the woods with the can, then dropped it and ran off.
The officer retrieved the trash can, but the bear appeared again and grabbed the can from the other side. The officer let go and backed away, but the bear didn't retreat. When the bear reared up on his hind legs in an aggressive manner, the officer shot it.
That same week, two residents found bears inside their homes.
A man woke up a half hour after midnight and discovered a bear trapped in the home's arctic entryway. Police opened the porch door from the outside and the bear ran off.
A woman living downtown opened her kitchen door to let her cat out at about 9 p.m., then turned to talk to a friend. When she turned back to the door, a bear was in her kitchen.
Residents who do not secure garbage are liable to fines. Committee member Pat Costello says commercial garbage bins rather than individual garbage cans may be a partial solution to the bear problem.
The bear committee will solicit ideas from the public in January and forward recommendations to the Juneau Assembly in February.
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