From Florida to Alaska, bear-proof containers increase safety

| October 10, 2013

Anyone who has ever camped is probably aware of the need to bear-proof their campground. Every night before bed, you put all your food into one secure container out of a bear’s reach, and properly dispose of any food-related trash. But for some homeowners and businesses, bear-proofing goes beyond camping – it’s a part of a day-to-day routine and requires extra security.

Keeping bears out of recycling and trash containers can be difficult as the slightest smell will spark in a bear vision of a quick and easy meal. If they get what they want, bears will return again and again. Since you can’t cut out household or business food waste altogether, the best solution to this problem is bear-proof trash and recycling receptacles. With fall being the most active time of the year for bears, cities, businesses, and residents in areas prone to visits from bears may want to consider investing in bear-proof containers.

bear-proof containers

A bear buffet. From Erik Abderhalden

Bears are most active in the fall because they’re on their pre-hibernation diet, which isn’t a “diet” in the most human sense at all, as they aim to eat 25,000-30,000 calories a day. They may hope that many of those calories will come from residential or recreational garbage cans. Bears are intelligent and adventurous animals. Their sense of smell is superior to that of dogs, they can stand up on their hind legs or sit up straight with balance, they learn fast, and remember well, which often means that they can easily open garbage containers.

You may be doing everything right when it comes to disposing of waste, but bears are adaptable creatures that can easily figure out how to open latches on dumpsters and garbage bins. What makes bear-proof containers successful is that they can only be opened by human hands and they are resilient enough to withstand a bear’s strength.

bear-proof containers

Black bears trying but failing to infiltrate bear-proof trash cans. From Steve Harwood.

Bears’ scavenging occurs all over the United States, despite climate or landscape. The city of Soldotna, Alaska has begun setting up solar-powered, bear-proof trash bins that send a text message to city employees when they are full and need to be emptied. The goal of these bins is to cut down on the time employees spend collecting trash and increase visitor safety in the city’s parks.

Orange County, Florida, an area that has recently experienced an increase in bear sightings, is investing in a more basic version of bear-proof trash containers. In Tallahassee, a pilot program funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will soon distribute and test close to 200 recycling and trash cans.

According to the Get Bear Smart Society, the following are some guidelines for bear-proof recycling and trash containers:

  • Container must be able to handle thousands of pounds of force
  • Lids should be tight enough to reduce odors
  • Hinges and latches must be strong enough to resist being opened by a bear’s clawing
  • Container materials must be able to withstand a bear’s chewing or crushing
  • Container should be self-latching (surveys show less than 50 percent of containers that require a padlock or secondary latching mechanism do not get relocked)

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Category: Food

About the Author ()

Katelyn is an intern at SmartSign. She recently graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in professional writing and specializations in public relations and nonprofits. As a recent transplant from Mason, Michigan, she is currently staying on her cousin's couch in the East Village. Katelyn looks forward to getting to know Brooklyn and eating her way across the five boroughs.

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