Returning bears repeatedly rummage through refuse
August 4, 2022
Garbage is in season for bears on Mitkof Island who are finding it as an easy, accessible source of food.
From July 27 to August 2 there were 15 reported bear sightings according to Petersburg Police Department reports and Petersburg Area Biologist Frank Robbins says the "common thread" is garbage.
"I think people come out of the winter where you don't really have to worry so much about managing their garbage and in the spring and early summer where we generally don't have many bears in town and they sort of loosen their management a bit and then suddenly bears appear because there's easy pickings and I think that's what's happened in the last few weeks," Robbins said.
Public Works Director Chris Cotta said garbage collection crews have also reported that instances of bears going through trash are on the rise.
The high number of bear sightings last year led to the passage of a borough ordinance requiring residents to make a "reasonable effort" to lock up garbage.
That could mean keeping it indoors until the morning of collection or securing the lid with a heavy rope or ratchet strap.
It also established a fine structure for noncompliance, rising to $300 for third and subsequent offenses, but Cotta told the assembly before it was approved that the borough will not be looking for problems and will only enforce the fine if they see repeated issues.
"Denying bears access to human food and garbage is hands down the most effective way of minimizing bear-human conflicts," Robbins said.
He added that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been working over the last few years to educate people on how to properly secure their garbage and encouraged anyone with questions to call the local office.
"It's really a community effort and everyone has to work together...it only takes a handful of people that just really aren't managing their garbage properly to cause issues for everyone in the neighborhood," Robbins said.