Resident input sought on bear-proof trash cans

Douglas County improvement districts, homeowners' associations and towns will be asked to weigh in on the expansion of a Douglas County's ordinance, requiring bear-proof bins where the animals have raided the garbage twice in a two-year period.

Douglas County commissioners voted unanimously to delay the decision at their regular meeting Thursday.

"Let the towns, general improvement districts and homeowners' associations look at the data and the problem and see if they want the ordinance implemented," said commissioner Jim Baushke. "With that feedback, we'll be in a better position to make a decision."

The ordinance, which is now restricted to Tahoe Township in Douglas County, makes it a violation to keep trash in a way that attracts bears. It requires bear-proof bins where there have been two bear-related complaints in two years.

Commissioner Kelly Kite said he is in favor of expanding the ordinance, which first requires residents to take responsibility for keeping their garbage from bears.

"I would vote no on making everyone purchase a bear-proof container," he said. "But people have to take responsibility."

He said the ordinance has been very effective in Tahoe Township.

"Everyone will have an opportunity to take a look at the ordinance and if it doesn't work, we can change it," Kite said. "The bears are coming and if people take individual responsibility now, it will make a difference."

Black bear complaints have increased in recent years and many homeowners within the Carson Valley's Foothill area have voluntarily constructed or purchased bear-proof containers because bears are continually getting into their trash, according to county officials.

Their migration into urban areas has proved more dangerous for the bears than humans.

Locally, 32 human-caused bear mortalities occurred in Nevada's largest bear population, which hovers between 200 and 300, said Carl Lackey, wildlife biologist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Jeanne Lear, spokeswoman with Douglas Disposal Inc. in Gardnerville, said a bear problem evolves gradually. Once established, the bears won't just go away. The bear-proof collection bin ordinance went into effect in Tahoe Township in 2001.

"There was a big problem in the Tahoe area," she said. "But we've made great progress."

The challenge is greater in rural areas with a diverse and widespread population like Douglas County's and that's why it's important to address the issues now, she said.

Bear-proof bins, which cost about $1,000 for installation and the special container including cement surround, have been very effective but not foolproof, Lear said.

"Most people handle their garbage and it's not a problem, but once bears are used to a house or neighborhood, they will get aggravated if the food is cut off," she said. "Then we have to do aversion techniques to scare them away.

"We have an opportunity to get a handle on this in the Valley before there's a big problem," she said.

In other business:

n After some last-minute wrangling, commissioners approved the 10-year revisions to Douglas County's master plan by a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Kelly Kite and Dave Brady cast the two dissenting votes.

The process was lead by consulting firm Design Workshop and this decision marks the end of a process that included numerous public and stakeholder meetings over the past 18 months.

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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