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Placer makes bear bins mandatory

Jeremy Morrison, Sun News Service

Placer County bears may have slimmer pickings now that the Board of Supervisors has passed an ordinance requiring the installation of bear-resistant garbage containers.

The ordinance, calling for all future projects as well as remodeling exceeding 500 square feet to install the containers, was passed at the board’s July 24 meeting.

“That’s big,” said Ann Bryant, president of the volunteer-based BEAR League. “It shows how far our consciousness has come in realizing this as a problem.”

The ordinance requires all new developments above 5,000 feet to install metal garbage containers. The county may also require areas of repeated and apparent incidents to install the bear-resistant boxes.

“They can really help when there’s a problem,” said Steve Kastan, field deputy for Placer County Supervisor Rex Bloomfield, adding that the oft-used wooden containers are not effective.

Kastan said the ordinance goes into effect 180 days after its July 24 passing date, and that the remodeling stipulation doe not include garages.

The BEAR League has long been a proponent of such an ordinance because morning-after Tahoe streets are often a strewn buffet of trash due to suburbanized bears feasting on the curbside.

Bryant said she supports the repeat-offender aspect of the ordinance because many people neglect to correct the problem when their garbage is a frequent target.

“Some people – they just don’t care,” she said. “Now they’ll have to.”

Bryant said she also thinks the ordinance will help to phase out the ineffective wooden garbage containers contractors sometimes install with new homes.

“They build these beautifully designed containers that are ripped to shreds in three days,” Bryant said. “It’s very unfair to the bears and the people being suckered into buying them.”

Kastan said a list of approved bear-resistant garbage containers, as well as several display models, is available at the Eastern Regional Landfield off Hwy. 89 near Truckee. The containers should be constructed of metal and have seams too small for a bear to pry open.

Once enough of the containers have been installed, Bryant said she expects to see a change in the behavior of area bears. She hopes less bears will venture into neighborhoods due to the lock-boxed hunting grounds the streets will provide.

Though there have been fewer reports of bear problems than in past years, Bryant said the league has still been getting calls, most commonly from Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows.

The bears in that area – a pair of sibling cubs – have been “tamed and made to feel like pets” by some residents, according to Bryant.

“They’ll just stand and look at you if you yell at them, like ‘I thought you were my friend,”‘ she said, explaining that the bears’ comfortable nature could attract the brunt of a state agency.

“They don’t know how to behave and now they may be killed.”

Bryant said she hopes the recently passed ordinance will decrease the number of bears lured into developed areas.


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