Regarding your article “The bare bones about bear encounters” in your July 14-20, 2022, edition, yes, it is popular opinion in these parts to point out that the ending of NJ annual bear hunts is the primary reason for escalating bear sightings and nuisances. However, there is another “big,” and in my opinion more practical reason that no one seems to notice or talk about why bears are spreading out more here and causing more problems.
Just add it as a supplement to the garbage reasons.
We all know that having access to garbage (aka, bear dinner) is a big reason for bears wanting to join our human population. Well, does anyone notice the giant, green, garbage containers on wheels that the garbage companies are providing and have taken over the streets in northwestern NJ for a few years now? On my street alone they are almost unanimous. They may be more spacious and more convenient for most, and practically everyone in northwestern NJ it seems uses one of these now, but the garbage companies use and provide them for their benefit of automating garbage pickup. These garbage company containers are not bear proof! I have first-hand experience with that. Using them also discourages people from using animal-resistant containers in the first place. (Animal resistant cans work. I have used an animal resistant container for almost 20 years now, and to this day not once has it been breached.)
In my own experience with this, I have been horribly plagued with my neighbors on both side’s garbage, and, unfortunately, they use the company’s provided containers (in our case it is WM’s). Their garbage has often and repeatedly been dragged onto my property in all its glory for a few years now, by bears, opossums, etc., exactly because these cans are not bear/animal proof. No one around me it seems can figure out how to keep their garbage contained within these containers and away from animals, so there has to be others.
One personal example is that we now have a very frequent bear who is into garbage from one side of me or another at least once a week, sometimes more, and at present it’s many times a week. It is not always dragged to my house but I see the remains consistently on their property when it’s not. Sometimes I hear him, often at 3 a.m., tipping over the waste container next door.
For this particular bear, he (her/?/not it) started coming around right after Halloween 2021, and since then he has never stopped coming, nor will he. He will never forget where one of his dinner sources is. When he started coming, home late, I found him happily munching in the dark in front of my front door at the time, feasting on next door’s thrown out lollipops, candy, and other bear delicacies, leaving behind wrappers and crumbs and food remains all over my lawn which had been dragged from theirs. I have also been face-to-face with him at least five times now. He is not afraid of me, nor dangerous, but I do have to be on alert when out late not knowing when we will bump into each other.
Bears into garbage are blamed and destroyed through no fault of their own. It is not fair! As much as I hate the garbage, I love bears more, and the point of this letter is to ask who really is at fault for escalating bear problems and expanding the bears into human neighborhoods, possibly causing more serious problems. The situation I am trying to expose is that it is the garbage companies themselves, the ones who provide the non-bear proof containers, and provide them so that the companies benefit (even though people do like them), who hold the primary responsibility. Because they are the provider of the non-bear-proof containers, they also need to make sure their containers are animal resistant, find a way to make their customers aware, and communicate to them how to make the containers animal resistant if it’s even possible.
In New Jersey I don’t believe WM makes their containers mandatory, but at least one garbage collection company in the Warwick, NY, area does make them mandatory for the lifts they use to pick up the garbage. So how do their customers using their service, use an animal resistant can in those cases if the cans are mandatory? I have complained directly to WM about their cans causing bear problems. They were to get back to me but never did. And in my opinion, everyone who cares about bears and wildlife, hate garbage all over the place, or are afraid of bears, should be putting pressure on these companies, by calling or writing to them until they do something and eliminate what in my opinion is most of the problem – not the lack of bear hunts. You are their customers, and they charge you enough, too, so they are liable.