Mayor on Duty: Bear discussion continues

Let me share some thoughts before the Community Coffee with the Mayor on Friday at the Hudson Library at 11 a.m. The program is on bear control. My candid views are about what the town has already done and possible plans for mitigating the bear problem. I use the word “mitigating” rather than “solving.” I don’t believe we will be able to completely solve the problem. The bears will always be with us. We have moved into their territory.

I had a recent conversation with one of our sanitation workers who was in my neighborhood collecting garbage. The worker had an interesting perspective since he literally encounters the bears on his route. He sees firsthand what our big, furry friends do to commercial dumpsters and residential trash cans.

Several years ago the town retrofitted our commercial dumpsters with fabricated metal tops with small door openings. The original dumpsters had plastic tops with large doors.  The bears would simply jump on the plastic tops until they caved in giving bears access. The metal tops were supposed to be the solution. The smaller metal doors would allow people to easily open and close the dumpsters while deterring the bears. I was informed by the sanitation worker that if our large commercial dumpster lids are chained, as they should be, the big 400 or 500 pound bears simply grab the sides of the lids and bend the metal back like opening a can.  The town has had several dumpsters’ tops destroyed by large bears.

This problem illustrates one aspect of the growing bear population. Work and research is underway in developing an alternative bin system for commercial uses. One particular problem is restaurant food waste. We might be at a point of considering alternatives to discarding restaurant food waste.

At the last town board meeting a discussion was held about replacing our trash cans on Main Street and 4th with bear resistant receptacles. Bears are overturning these street cans nightly.

The new bear resistant street cans that were discussed cost about $1,300 per can. Gatlinburg just replaced their street cans with a bear proof, compactor cans that are solar powered. These cans also sent a text messages to trash crews when they are full. I don’t know the cost of these high tech devices, but I bet they exceed that $1,300 number.

Another aspect of the problem is residential garbage. The town could pass an ordinance requiring residential garbage being placed in bear resistant toters. They cost about $200 each. But, a 500 pound bear could open these containers by jumping on them like they did the dumpsters with plastic tops.

Now I know some folks reading this will say the mayor is “Debby Downer” when it comes to controlling bears. I like to think I’m not, but that some solutions might not work as intended. The town could spend a lot of money on bear control, so we need to make sure our plans provide the best outcomes.

See you at the coffee.

  • Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor

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