New bear-resistant dumpsters should reduce conflicts

LOS ALAMOS – A routine call from the Los Alamos Medical Center resulted in the purchase of 13 bear-resistant dumpsters to be placed at 10 locations throughout the city.

The medical center initially contacted the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish about a problem with bears visiting dumpsters at the facility. Following a site visit, Game and Fish personnel contacted Los Alamos County regarding similar issues.

“The bears had become regular visitors and we were concerned about the bears and potential issues with people,” said Carlos Branch, director of plant operations at the medical center. “We anticipate the new dumpsters will minimize interactions with bears and other animals that climb into the containers and pull out trash. This will dramatically reduce litter and risk.”

Angelica Gurule, environmental services manager for the county, said locations were identified around Los Alamos that involved a lot of food waste.

“The community is happy about getting these dumpsters in place,” she said. “We’ve had issues with bears dragging trash into the canyons and making a mess.”

Dangerous encounters are possible when bears become habituated to humans.

“This will help address the public safety concern,” said Bob Osborn, assistant chief of private land programs for Game and Fish. “Human-wildlife conflicts often don’t end well for wildlife. Hopefully this will encourage bears to forage naturally in the wild and not rely on garbage dumpsters as a source for food.”

The deal to get the dumpsters has been finalized and they’ll be put in place before bears begin searching for food in the spring. Osborn said the $31,500 cost of the project will be split between the department, county and medical center.

The bear-resistant dumpsters feature heavy metal lids with two smaller access doors for people to use. The lid releases when a truck picks up a dumpster and locks back in place when it is set down.

For more information on living in bear country, visit the Game and Fish website