Bear-proof garbage cans pilot project coming

Three hundred new garbage cans will be rolled out to local curbs in the spring. They are designed to be bear-proof.

If the pilot project works, said Sean LeBrun, the city's manager of parks and solid waste, more of the cans will be used in the parts of the city with the most bear problems.

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"We will work with the Conservation Officer Service and Northern Bear Aware to determine the places where the highest concentration of calls comes from, where the most bear-human conflict occurs," said LeBrun.

"I think we will focus these household bins one specific area to see if we make a real difference with this new option. Those discussions have already started. We have narrowed some neighbourhoods down but there is still some discussion that needs to happen."

"You would think, with all the obvious bear populations in and around Prince George, that people by now would be smarter about garbage, but people here are quite careless and something has to be done about it," said Sgt. Steve Ackles of the region's conservation service.

"There are no bear problems. There are only human problems. If you take the garbage food source habituation out of the mix, the numbers would plummet," of bears needing to be destroyed for public protection.

Ackles was an early supporter of the City of Prince George's interest in these innovative garbage cans.

These new can designs should greatly reduce the incidental attractants, said LeBrun, but people would still need to be conscientious about their behaviours. These cans are a proactive way to help that behaviour out.

"They look basically like the garbage cart we currently use. They come from the same supplier, they are just beefier. They are more skookum and there is even a bear pictured right on it," LeBrun said.

"The best part is, it stays locked, seven days a week. On collection day, you don't have to unlock it and open up that threat. The mechanism automatically unlocks when it's inverted or easily opens if you have thumbs."

The cans are three times as expensive as the conventional garbage carts being used, but saving the life of a bear and/or a human greatly outweighs that factor, said LeBrun.

"We put the same thinking into the bear-proof civic litter containers we have citywide," he said.

"They cost more money, too, and we started with the areas of greatest concern for bears, on trails and along the rivers first, but gradually we have been covering the city with them. It's an ongoing issue but we recognize that its important that we have a bear-proof municipal solid waste system because we do live in bear country. If the data supports it, the goal would be to add these cans little by little each year starting with the areas of higher risk and move in gradually to cover the whole city."

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