Green Guide

Sitka ordinance would toughen anti-bear trash fines

Posted April 14

— Bears in the Sitka area will have a tougher time finding a snack under an ordinance nearing approval by the city.

The city of Sitka's Assembly voted unanimously on the first reading of a new ordinance that will make it easier for police to issue fines to residents for improper trash disposal Tuesday, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/2oGFwR1).

The ordinance comes as bears are coming out of hibernation. Alaska wildlife officials said the bears wake up hungry and end up in the city in search of food inside trash cans. They estimate one to two bears are killed every summer.

Alaska Wildlife Management Biologist Steve Bethune, who testified in favor of the ordinance, said the state doesn't necessarily have a bear problem, it has a problem with the way people handle their trash.

Under the new rule, improper trash disposal will be considered a minor offense and will only require a court appearance after the third violation, Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt said. Fines are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $200 for the third.

"Now it's a payable fine, and there's no need to go to court for that — which was overkill," Ankerfelt said. "In the past, if the person decided to fight a citation in a mandatory court appearance, I or the officers would have to go up there (to court). Everybody saves time, including the person who receives the citation."

Sitka residents are not to put out garbage or other attractants before 4 a.m. or after 8 p.m. on pickup day, under city ordinances.

If all residents follow that rule, Ankerfelt said time and bears' lives will be saved.

The ordinance will receive final approval April 25.

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