Changes at landfill target bears
Tightened procedures for dumping have dispersed bears that formerly congregated at the Haines Sanitation landfill, according to dump operators.
Operations manager Richard Crosby, who started on the job in June, said he’d counted up to seven bruins there at one time – including a sow with three cubs – when he started in June.
He attributed their presence to customers leaving some household waste in with inert materials they previously were allowed to dump themselves in the landfill. Customers no longer are permitted to dump on their own.
"They would say they just had two or three bags of construction debris, but they’d have food waste in there also. Then we had bears. It was getting too out-of-control," Crosby said last week.
In August, when some private vehicles dumping got stuck in mud there, Crosby said he discontinued the practice. All garbage now is dumped at the transfer facility and screened for food waste, he said.
Bears there got so aggressive they tore metal siding off the building and also damaged a large, roll-up door. At the time of damage, the only food garbage in the building were some bags contaminated with oil.
"Whether it’s inside or outside, a bear’s nose goes for 20 miles," Crosby said. "They were tearing the building up for petroleum products."
Crosby said after removing the attractant and cleaning the building, he left the doors open there, rather than have the buildings torn up for nothing. "There’s no evidence of bears other than them cruising through here. I see tracts going down the driveway, but that’s it, nothing around the building or the dump."
Bear activity at the dump prompted a recent visit there by Neil Barten, Fish and Game’s head wildlife biologist for northern Southeast. In 1999, Fish and Game relocated about 10 bears that had become habituated to the dump. Some were later shot when they returned to town.
At that time, landfill managers agreed to take measures to keep bears and wildlife out of the area.
Area wildlife biologist Ryan Scott said Crosby and owner Tom Hall are receptive to changing practices to keep bears out. "They’re doing a pretty serious revamping of the system. It appears they’re cleaning things up."
Other steps may be necessary, he said. "In my eyes, they need a fence to contain that dump. The dump is close to town. There needs to be a way to contain bears out there and the only way I know is with a solid fence."
Scott said he didn’t believe the dump was the reason bears have been especially aggressive in the neighborhood. Some residents on FAA Road say bears have been approaching homes there with a frequency they haven’t seen in years.
"I don’t think it’s a cause and effect kind of thing. I think it’s one part of the puzzle," Scott said.