Bear-proof can doesn’t stop hungry critter |

Bear-proof can doesn’t stop hungry critter

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

As the first days of spring arrive, most bears will be shaking off their slumber and looking for anything to eat that will get their digestive systems running.

One hungry bear traversing a North Upper Truckee neighborhood, however, must have been downright starved. The bear used its nimble claws to rip open a county-approved bear-proof metal trash receptacle.

Pat Snyder bought his metal enclosure in September as he worked on additions to his home on Normuk Street off North Upper Truckee. An ordinance passed last July requires any new construction sites in the county to have metal trash enclosures.

After three years of stashing trash under the deck and keeping it inside the house, Snyder bought the enclosure from Bearicade.

Snyder and his wife Eva have nicknames for their neighborhood bears, but they don’t know if the perpetrator of the trash receptacle was Bubba, Brownie or Cinnamon. Whichever bear it was, it was persistent and patient as it ripped the right door off its hinges to get to the trash.

The couple says they shred food in a garbage disposal instead of putting it in the trash. Since the Snyders are pet-sitting a neighbor’s feline, cat food likely attracted the bear.

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The metal can enclosure cost about $800. Not hearing anything the night before, Pat Snyder was perplexed when he woke up and found the bear-proof can had not done its job.

“It’s one of the better items we paid to have,” he said.

It’s also not the first time bear-proof trash cans haven’t worked. Campground hosts throughout Lake Tahoe have been stumped over how bears can seemingly rip through metal as if it were cardboard.

Dario Stepankowsy, an owner and installer for Bearicade, said he would fix Snyder’s enclosure for free and put in a new lock since the old lock, a type of pinching device, didn’t work.

Bear Preservation League founder Ann Bryant said even though the metal enclosure by Bearicade is county approved, intelligent bears have figured how to gain access. Now enclosures should have locks and humans should remove the key after securing their trash.

“They’re just opening them like a child would,” Bryant said. “Originally when they were made we said, ‘Oh this is it, we’ve got them.’ But they’re so nimble-fingered.”

“The bears so far haven’t figured how to pick up a key and put it in a lock,” she added.

Bryant called wooden bear structures “worthless” and warned people about pouring bleach on their trash to deter bears.

Among other things, ammonia can mix with other chemicals and create a poisonous gas in the trash, Bryant said.

Pine Sol works best on trash because of its oily composition. Bryant said a good defense is having two bottles of Pine Sol inside the enclosure on each side with a string in both bottles. The string, which will soak up the Pine Sol, should be draped inside the front of the enclosure.

The smelly string could work for wooden enclosures, but the purpose is defeated since there are many places where smell can escape, Bryant said.

Along with the approved enclosures mandated for new county construction, El Dorado County Environmental Management can require a home to buy one if two complaints are fielded to the office by the sheriff’s department, Clean Tahoe or neighbors.

Since the ordinance was adopted, El Dorado County Environmental Management has received about 45 complaints but only a few repeats, said Ginger Huber, Tahoe division manager.

— E-mail William Ferchland at