Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Hearing set on bear ordinance


October 7, 2010

The Haines Borough Assembly will hold a first public hearing on a proposed bear attraction nuisance at its Tuesday meeting.

Residents can be fined up to $200 for repeat offenses under the proposed law; a first offense would bring a warning, and a second, a fine up to $100.

The ordinance prohibits residents from causing or creating a bear attraction nuisance, defined as more than a half-gallon of putrescible waste, any organic material that has previously attracted a bear to the property, and soiled, disposable diapers.

The ordinance says a bear attraction does not include material in a certified landfill, trash left out for collection after 4 a.m ., "material completely enclosed in a structure or container which requires hands or tools to open," and "livestock protected by bear-proof fencing."

Under the ordinance, a violation is not only creating the attraction, but allowing it to continue.

The assembly introduced the measure Sept. 21, raising questions including the meaning of bear-proof fencing. "If you just have an enclosure that has a couple of strands of barbed wire to hold a horse or livestock, is that bear-proof?" asked assemblyman Scott Rossman.

"What is bear-proof fencing? There is none, unless you have maybe a 24-foot chain-link fence," he said.

Borough manager Mark Earnest said he’d take a look at changing the language or more clearly defining the term.

Earnest said the local ordinance was an amalgam of ones already on the books in Skagway, Sitka and Juneau. One change was reducing the penalty for violating the ordinance from a misdemeanor to a citation.

"The idea is we looked at three ordinances and the clerk spent a fair amount of time melding the ordinances from Skagway, Sitka and Juneau and came up with an ordinance we felt was best suited for Haines," Earnest said.

Member Steve Vick asked whether the ordinance would mandate any changes for people who like to smoke fish in their back yard.

Police chief Gary Lowe responded: "If it’s something that’s waste that’s attracting bears, it would apply. If they’re just smoking (fish), it wouldn’t apply."

Borough staff was directed to see where apple trees and cherry trees would be included in the ordinance. The ordinance should not apply to the area outside of the townsite service area, said member Jerry Lapp.

Member Norm Smith cited damage to the back of his Officers’ Row home by bears attracted by a bag of dog treats on an enclosed porch.

"It’s been my recent experience that bear-proof containers don’t include locked back porches. That bear went through the wall and went out the bottom half of the door. Maybe we should include dog food in bear attractant definitions," Smith said.

A steady traffic of bears around homes in the downtown area in early summer brought urgency to the issue. The number of reports has declined in recent weeks, although one bear seen last weekend turned over the Senior Center dumpster.