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Ketchum City Council favors bear-resistant garbage bins to keep encounters down

Black bear in a tree
Idaho Fish and Game
Black bear treed after raiding garbage cans and being aggressive to people in a Ketchum neighborhood. Bear was euthanized and two cubs taken to a wildlife rehabilitation.

Last month, Idaho Fish and Game killed a black bear in Ketchum, after it got into several residential garbage bins, and potentially charged a woman.

Fish and Game officers darted the sow as she was perched in a spruce tree and then euthanized her. They took her two cubs to a wildlife sanctuary in McCall.

That’s renewed an outcry among locals who say more can be done to keep bears – and people – safe.

“This year, we’ve already had situations where bears are getting into residential garbage in Starweather, in Gimlet, Warm Springs, then out North Fork at the SNRA headquarters,” said Terry Thompson, the regional communications director for Fish and Game.

Thompson and a representative from Clear Creek Disposal, the valley’s garbage collection service, presented options to the Ketchum City Council Monday.

Bear encounters are a chronic problem in the Wood River Valley, Thompson said, and the root cause is unsecured residential garbage. He fears an escalation to the issue: a person getting injured or killed.

In the short-term, the city could enact an ordinance against putting out the garbage for pickup too early in the morning – or even days in advance, as some council members said is common with vacation rentals.

But ideally, Thompson said, Clear Creek would replace all garbage bins with wildlife-resistant alternatives that people would need to unlock to open.

“You can have 100 houses doing a great job, but all it’s going to take is one or two that don’t that’s still going to bring bears in,” Thompson said.

The city council members, and members of the public who sent in comments, favored that permanent solution.

The city could move forward on changing its agreement with Clear Creek to facilitate purchasing those bins, which cost about $350 apiece. The only problem is, they wouldn’t arrive for another year.

So, the council could also try to pass an ordinance, largely as a way to educate the public about how to keep bears out of residential trash.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.