Over the past year, AWI partnered with the Sierra Club and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition to encourage the City of Bozeman, Montana, to take steps to address increasing incidents of human-bear conflicts. A wide variety of attractants can lure bears into residential areas, including barbeque grills, bird feeders, fruit trees, and dog food left outside. Most enticing of all, however, is garbage. When standard trash bins are left out on the curb—especially at night—they become easy targets for investigating bears. But human trash is dangerous. Bears can cut their gums and paws on glass and metal, ingest harmful plastics, or get their heads stuck in containers. Even worse, after spending time near human communities, bears can lose their natural fear of people. Habituated bears may be killed by wildlife managers as a last resort—last year, nine bears were killed in Bozeman due to habituation and food conditioning.
In response, AWI and our partners urged the city to implement a pilot project to provide residents in high-conflict neighborhoods with bear-resistant garbage bins. City officials agreed and purchased 50 bear bins for residents this fall. The city also launched a “bear aware” educational campaign, posting information on its website and distributing flyers and door hangers with tips about living in bear country. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle editorial board offered an enthusiastic endorsement, writing, “Amen. May this project be met with resounding success and be expanded citywide soon.” We have already begun conversations with the city about investing in another 50–100 bins for next year.