There’s only a bit of rubbish left on the slope today, and it’s old – the cans are rusted and the paper is fading. Peterson asks the station manager if he’s seen any bears, and the man says no. The station now has two large containers with metal doors that are locked with bear-proof carabiners.
“It’s an easy fix, isn’t it?” says Peterson, laughing because it wasn’t. In the past, a worker pulled a flimsy three-leg electric fence into place every evening. Bears pushed it aside. Originally, the container doors were made of plastic. “When they first installed the metal doors, they were covered in footprints. The bears were crazy.”
Tonight, on each of the three doors of a trash can, there is a single muddy footprint. A lonely bear was here, attracted by the smell of garbage. But the bear didn’t come in. Instead of getting used to eating at the transfer station, he went off to look elsewhere.
“Remove the food source, eliminate the problem,” says Peterson.
This is what living together looks like. It doesn’t require hunting. “Shooting down a random bear in the forest will not end the human-bear conflict,” says Hagio. Instead, it requires people to take responsibility. It’s all about human adaptation. And bears stay alive.
Tips for living together
Here’s how humans can protect bears and themselves: by removing human food that attracts bears, discouraging bears from approaching humans, and avoiding casual bear encounters.
Garbage and recyclables: Store in locked bear-resistant dumpsters or in a locked garage or shed. Freeze meat or fish waste until the day of garbage collection.
Compost: Store in bear-resistant containers or surround with electric fencing.
Chicken coops and beehives: Protect yourself with electric fences.
Pets: Feed pets indoors and store their food indoors.
Grilling: Clean thoroughly after each use.
fruit trees: Harvest ripe fruit promptly.
Bird Feeder: Only feed birds in winter, when natural food is scarce (and bears hibernate).
Houses and garages: Keep doors and windows closed and locked – or locked with an opening too small for bears. Do not vent cooking smells to the outside.
Visiting bears: Chase away black bears by shouting or throwing sticks, stones or tennis balls.
Camping: Store food in bear-resistant containers or hang out of reach. Dispose of trash in bear-resistant trash cans. Clean grills and tables.
Hike: Bring bear spray, hike with a buddy and make some noise along the way. Leash dogs or, even better, leave them at home.