Today, there’s only a little garbage on the hillside, and it’s old—the cans are rusty and the paper faded. Peterson asks the station manager if he has seen any bears and the man says no. The station now has two big bins with metal doors that lock with bear-proof carabiners.
“It’s a simple solution, right?” Peterson says and laughs, because it wasn’t. A worker used to pull a weak, three-strand electric fence into place each evening. Bears pushed it aside. Originally, the bin doors were plastic. “When they first installed the metal doors, they were covered with footprints. The bears were mad.”
This evening, on each of the three doors of one bin is a single muddy footprint. Drawn by the smell of garbage, a lone bear has been here. But the bear couldn’t get in. Instead of becoming used to eating at the transfer station, he left to search elsewhere.
“Remove the food source, remove the problem,” says Peterson.
This is what coexistence looks like. It does not require hunting. “Shooting a random bear in the woods is not going to stop human-bear conflict,” says Hagio. Instead, it demands that people take responsibility. It’s all about humans adapting. And bears staying alive.
Tips for coexisting
Here’s how people can keep bears and themselves safe: by removing human food that attracts bears, discouraging bears from approaching people and avoiding chance bear encounters.
Garbage and recyclables: Store in locked bear-resistant trash containers or in a locked garage or shed. Freeze meat or fish scraps until the day of garbage pickup.
Compost: Keep in bear-resistant containers or surround with electric fencing.
Chicken coops and beehives: Protect with electric fencing.
Pets: Feed pets indoors and store their food inside.
Grills: Clean thoroughly after each use.
Fruit trees: Harvest ripe fruit promptly.
Bird feeders: Feed birds only in winter when natural food is scarce (and bears hibernate).
Houses and garages: Keep doors and windows shut and locked—or locked in place with an opening too small for bears. Do not vent cooking odors outdoors.
Visiting bears: Chase off 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 garbage in bear-resistant trash cans. Clean grills and tables.
Hiking: Bring bear spray, hike with a buddy and make noise as you go. Leash dogs or, better yet, leave them home.