Fish & Game urges residents to secure trash in wake of limited enforcement
An east Anchorage neighborhood says bears are visiting so frequently, they're scared to let their children play outside, while Fish & Game biologists say the problem could be the solution--and that problem is people, not bears.
"They're going in everybody's trash up and down Bolin," said east Anchorage resident Arthur West.
Midday Sunday, many of West's neighbors had already put their Alaska Waste trash bins out on the curb, and the black bears West sees daily had already toppled bins over and dug through them, leaving the contents spilling out into the street.
"[The bear] sat right there just eating, and we're throwing stuff at him, and he just looked at us like, 'What the heck, man, you're disturbing me.' Then he got ticked off and went up and down the street knocking trash cans over," said West, describing the boldness of the black bears who roam his neighborhood.
By Monday morning, the trash bins had been emptied, and more bags of trash were already starting to accumulate in a nearby yard.
Alaska Fish and Game spokesperson Ken Marsh said more than 30 bears have been killed in Anchorage this year. It's not a record, but it's high, according to Marsh.
Marsh says his department doesn't have the resources to police trash placement, and in many instances, they don't have the legal authority to do so either.
According to Anchorage's Municipal Code, garbage should never be on or in view from a public street, except on the day of pickup.
That means garbage cans in West's neighborhood shouldn't have been placed on the street Sunday.
Marsh says they do not have the ability to enforce Muni code and rely on a state statute that prohibits the negligent feeding of wildlife, but rarely cite people.
"We're in the business of managing wildlife. Not so much people," said Marsh.
An Anchorage Police Department spokesperson found no records of the muni ordinance on trash placement being enforced by APD from 2015 to the present.
She said APD has issued three citations this year under the state statute Fish and Game uses, and two of those citations were written for issues near Bean's Cafe.
The spokesperson also said they will continue to respond to calls of bears eating trash and cite people when appropriate, but do not have the resources to consistently enforce garbage placement code in advance of collection days.
Marsh says community members need to do the right thing.
"The neighborhood really needs to do their part. They need to just not make that trash available to bears, again, keep that trash secured till the morning of pickup, and if you possibly can, get bear-proof cans," said Marsh.
Alaska Waste says Monday that some of the bear-resistant cans on Bolin Street are several years old, and bears are likely able to get into them now due to natural wear and tear. They have newer models available for customers and will deliver them if requested.
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