Bear problems lead to trash talk: Many are calling for later garbage pickup times |

Bear problems lead to trash talk: Many are calling for later garbage pickup times

Sara Thompson
A South Tahoe Refuse crew empties trash cans. Collectors will no longer pick up loose trash.
Tribune file

Why can’t the trash be picked up later?

This is the question many South Shore residents are asking the South Tahoe Refuse company. By changing the pickup time, residents could take out their trash in the morning rather than leaving it out the night before, and bears wouldn’t be able to snack on it all night.

In response to the euthanization of a mother bear and her two cubs in Gardnerville, Zephyr Cove resident Chris Larson wrote a letter to the Tribune, saying the bear problem is due to the early-morning pickup time.

“This forces people who will not get up early to put their trash out, to leave it out all night, essentially giving the bears no interruptions while they feast in our neighborhood buffets,” Larson wrote.

Once the bears get accustomed to eating garbage, they are more likely to start breaking into homes in search of food, wildlife officials have said. An increase in bear problems this year has been attributed to dwindling food and water in the wild due to drought and habitat destruction from the Angora fire.

But changing trash pickup times is a complicated matter, said Jeanne Lear, human resources manager for South Tahoe Refuse company.

“Pickup times have been discussed for decades,” said Lear.

Morning is the best time for garbage pick up, Lear contends. The company provides service to all of Douglas County, El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe, and that is the time agreed upon in the contracts, she said.

To change the time means the contracts would also have to be altered, Lear said.

Residential pickup starts at 5 a.m. and goes until the trucks have finished their routes, Lear said. Commercial pickup starts at 4 a.m. To start trash pickup later would cost more because the process would take longer, she said.

Morning trash pickup is safer because fewer people and vehicles are out and about, Lear said.

Larson said he understands why commercial pickup should be done early, since those areas will have heavy traffic later in the day. But those businesses have Dumpsters, which are more effective for keeping the bears out, he said.

Lear said the refuse company works to educate the public about proper garbage disposal when dealing with bears. People can buy a low-cost container, which work well in the summer, or they can get an enclosure to keep the bears out.

That solution is not popular with everyone, however.

“The idea that every responsible person in the basin should shell out for an expensive and unsightly bear box so our garbage company can come around at an ungodly hour of the morning is reason for revolt,” wrote South Lake Tahoe resident Dieter Briggs in an Aug. 16 letter to the editor.

Bears will come for a snack whenever they want, Lear said. One climbed over the fence at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at the refuse company, she said. Bears are out at all times.

Residents may have to pay extra for the pickup time to be moved, but Larson thinks it’s worth it.

Moving the pick-up time and paying the extra dollar is a simple solution to the problem, he said.

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