Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alaska Bear Story Number One: Secure Your Garbage

For the benefit of anyone who may relocate to Alaska, something you better learn your first day in-state is to secure your garbage. Secure your garbage. Secure your garbage. Failing to do so can result in a 500-dollar fine and earn the enmity of those around you. This is not just good manners. In Alaska, it can be a matter of life and death. Any cheechako (a newcomer) who leaves their trash out is likely to get a very unwelcome houseguest. In many Alaskan municipalities, black bears tend to lurk just outside the suburbs, and their noses are extremely sensitive. If they smell an easy meal, they will follow their noses into the suburbs. The Anchorage Police are pretty enlightened about dealing with the situation. They usually treat first-time offender bears with a barrage of rubber bullets, noisemakers and sirens in hopes of convincing the bear that humans are more trouble than they’re worth. In my five years in Alaska, I don’t recall a single instance of a person being killed by a black bear. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a black bear poses a great threat to people and pets. Anyone whose sloppy habits result in the death of a bear is likely to be shunned by paroled child molesters.

Anchorage News columnist Mike Dugan once wrote an editorial from the point of view of an outraged black bear accusing humans in general of dirty dealing. They leave garbage and table scraps outside, knowing perfectly well they are bear magnets. Then the bears get shot, simply for looking for a meal.

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