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Reminder to secure garbage containers, bears out-and-about in Whitefish

Black Bears Garbage
Posted at 3:17 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 17:33:47-04

WHITEFISH - Bears are waking up from hibernation this spring and starting to move into lower elevations in Flathead County.

A popular bear destination is the Whitefish area where up to 19 bears were sported getting into garbage last September.

“It’s very important that everyone keeps the animal attractants secured, your garbage, recycling, whatever you might have in your space outside,” said Whitefish City Manager Dana Smith.

It’s that time of year when grizzly and black bears are starting to look for food sources after a long winter of denning.

In Whitefish, garbage containers must be stored indoors until the day of collection under city ordinance.

“With your current garbage containers, it’s very important that you just put them out the morning of and bring those back in, we really want those secured, we do have our law enforcement going out and checking containers so, if you do leave yours out and its unsecured then you do risk a citation at this point." - Whitefish City Manager Dana Smith

Smith said the city is working on a plan with garbage provider, Republic Services, to bring animal-resistant containers to residents city-wide in the coming months.

“We really hope to have something like this in place already knowing that the bears are awake, but we have a draft addendum that we’re working through with Republic Services, we anticipate that will come to council here in a couple months,” added Smith.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Spokesman Dillon Tabish said securing and reducing food attractants is a must this time of year.

Black Bear garbage

“Any food attractants whether it’s garbage cans, barbecue grills, bird feeders, those can attract bears, bears can smell food from over a couple miles away so if you have something with a scent, it’s going to come looking for food,” said Tabish.

Smith said residents could see a potential tax increase if the city-wide animal-resistant containers are implemented.

“We’re really looking at the safety of our residents and making sure that we don't have an encounter between a human and a bear that is devastating to this community,” said Smith.