Brown Bear Resources (BBR) and Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) and Max Bauer have been working together for several years in a cooperative project to reduce bear-human conflicts. What follows is an incredible step, made possible by one of the largest waste management companies in the world, and it's Missoula director.
Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) is a nationwide waste management company with operations in the Missoula , Montana area. BFI, or the garbage people as some refer to them, are often the first to learn where bears are attracted to garbage cans, dumpsters, etc. As we all have known for years, bears who find such food sources are ultimately killed, either in self defense or as "management problems". Relocation of such bears by management agencies is often attempted, but the bear almost always comes back to areas inhabited by people simply because they have learned to associate people with food (garbage).
Max Bauer, the local director for BFI,
notes that he frequently receives reports from his drivers about bear "incidents". Last summer, one driver backed up to a dumpster, began to unload it, and had a black bear jump out of the container as it was being lifted. Needless to say, the driver will remember the moment he saw the young bear leaping straight up and out at him for a long time. Fortunately, both bear and person escaped uninjured, but not without acquiring a bit of new gray hair. Maybe this is how British Columbia 's "spirit bear" (mostly a while color-phased black bear) acquired its name.
Mr. Bauer is an avid wildlife advocate and hunter, as well as a remarkable member of the community. He continually donates to causes such as removal of junk vehicles, pickup of garbage dumped on national forest lands, and most importantly, helping reduce conflicts between humans and wildlife.
Beginning last year, Brown Bear brought BFI together with the USFS, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation. With additional cooperation from Missoula County and an inventory of attractant sites conducted by Brown Bear, a survey was distributed by BFI to its rural residents. This survey asked if residents had seen bears near or in their garbage, how often such events occurred, and asked people's willingness to resolve the problem by better containing their garbage.
In the last year alone, Max and BFI have designed, manufactured, and delivered, 25 bear resistant dumpsters ranged from $850 to $1,000 excluding design, prototype manufacturing, and shipping.
Placement of the dumpsters is dependent in part on the survey and attractant site data, driver reports and requests from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Each dumpster is build to allow humans access, but unless bears learn how to use latches and clips, wild life will be excluded.
Garbage is never a glamorous issue. It's difficult to raise funds for something as mundane as a large garbage can, let alone money for its design, manufacture, acquisition, shipping and placement. BBR has worked for the last 10 years in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) to keep trash in its place and bears away from it. There are now dozens of bear resistant dumpsters in the NCDE but we need more.
With this year's work, BFI has taken us a long way toward protecting bears, and humans. We are extremely grateful for all the Max has done. If BFI is your hauler, the next time you see your "garbage man", tell him thanks for his/her company's help in protecting our wild life. And ask if he or she has ever had a bear bounce out of a dumpster and into their lap.