Run-ins between people and bears has been a major conversation piece throughout the Anchorage bowl this summer.

On Friday afternoon, the Anchorage Assembly kicked off a series of work sessions to address problems caused by bears and wildlife. Assembly members, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and local waste services companies all took part in the discussion which was dominated by bear-resistant garbage cans.

"One thing is there was a lot of support for fining people who don't protect their trash from bears,” said Assemblyman John Weddleton, in reference to a phone survey conducted for Fish and Game.

According to Alaska Waste, Solid Waste Services, and Blue Arctic Waste, the bear-resistant containers come at a cost about five-times higher than regular cans. The cost of production, as well as shipping fees, tack on an extra two to four dollars a month for consumers to use the bear-resistant can. Alaska Waste also says it takes an average of 35-seconds for a stop at a home with the more expensive can.

While all the waste services companies suggested they had bear cans in their inventory, Assembly Chair Forrest Dunbar asked how to make them more accessible or affordable for those who need them.

“If there was some way to spread it out amongst everyone at a smaller cost,” suggested Dunbar. “For example, if we said you must provide a bear cart at the same price you will provide a regular cart. Could you then get approval from the (Regulatory Commission of Alaska) to spread that out?"

The work session also included a discussion on better education for proper and responsible trash management in the community. Another suggestion would see a timetable enforced as to when residents could put trash out. Plus, are there really more bears roaming the municipality than ever before?

"There is certainly a perception because everybody sees it now,” said biologist Dave Battle. "The mainstream media even picks up on it. There are a lot of times reporters [who] call us and say, 'hey, I saw on Facebook; someone reported this.' They do a news story off of that."

The meeting was a preliminary talk. Dunbar says it is the first in a series of two to three meetings that will hopefully result in an ordinance. The assembly is working to have a plan in place by next summer that will address citizen’s concerns without breaking their banks.

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