Garbage Bear Season Is Here

When employees of Tracy’s King Crab Shack went into work Sunday morning, they were greeted by cardboard boxes, trash bags and crab bisque containers scattered all over the alleyway. Three dumpsters had been overturned.

Overturned dumpsters in the alleyway between Tracy's King Crab Shack and Diamonds International on Sunday morning. (Photo by Heather Holt)

It’s that time of year again. Bears have descended on Juneau dumpsters and garbage cans, which mean people have to be extra responsible about how they dispose of trash.

For the past couple of weeks, manager Tina Degarimore has gotten used to this.

“There seems to be one bear that terrorizes South Franklin Street with the garbages,” Degarimore said.

In June, the business tried to secure their two dumpsters properly.

“We did put a fence up. Well, the bear decided he didn’t like the fence so he did break the fence. We’re definitely going to be looking at different solutions and trying to find something more bear-proof,” she said.

In the meantime, Degarimore said the staff is securing the dumpsters with carabiners and doing what it can when a bear does get in.

“Clean it up, put the cans back up and continue on with our day,” Degarimore said.

That bear terrorizing South Franklin Street is getting ready to den. As summer comes to an end, bears try to pack on as much fat as they can.

“They’re certainly driven by their stomachs and they’re going to find food wherever they can and a lot of the time, that brings them into town,” said Stephanie Sell, wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Last week, a bear with a plastic container stuck on its head was walking around Cope Park. Sell says Alaska Department of Fish and Game immobilized the bear, got the container off and moved it out of town. The bear is now marked with a red ear tag. (Photo courtesy Bob Dilley)

By not securing our trash properly, Sell said we’re training bears to have bad behaviors.

“Unfortunately every time a bear gets into garbage, it remembers that. It remembers that it’s gotten food there and it’s going to remember the source. Whether it be a garbage can or a dumpster or just bags of trash that are out, they’re going to remember that and from year to year, they’re going to look for that,” Sell said.

The city requires you to keep your garbage can in a garage or shed until 4 a.m. the morning of trash pick-up day. If you do not have a garage or shed, get a bear-resistant can like a Bearsaver, Toter or Kodiak Can. The gray garbage can with a black lid and red lock that many residents have are not bear proof or bear resistant. Another option is freezing food scraps until trash pick-up day.

Sell said Fish and Game has had to euthanize two bears this year – one in July and one earlier this month. On average, Sell says the agency puts down three to four each year and relocates the same amount.

Juneau’s Community Service Officer Bob Dilley said the city’s bear attraction nuisance law had a big rewrite in 2004.

“The year before the ordinance was rewritten, there was 23 bears that were shot and killed that year and that really got people fired up. Twenty-three in a summer is a lot of bears,” Dilley said.

Around this time of year, Dilley said Juneau police are giving out one to two bear citations a day. Those carry a fine from $50 to $300.

“It seems like this many years into the ordinance and trying to get people to do the right thing, I would have hoped we would’ve been further along with having less interactions with bears and people and their garbage,” Dilley said.

Dilley doesn’t think Juneau will ever completely solve its problem with garbage bears, but he says we can do better.