Bear-box awareness: New wildlife waste management programs coming to South Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bear-box awareness: New wildlife waste management programs coming to South Lake Tahoe

Every summer, local bears' lives are at risk. People visit the Sierra Nevada without knowing proper ways to interact with wildlife — including leaving trash out or treating bears as pets — that increase animal reliance on human food.

On June 23, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval declared July "Bear Logic" month, urging people to think like a bear in order to keep the animals alive and wild. This includes keeping all areas clean of waste, food and other items that attract bears. Although emphasized in July, bear awareness is a year-round task — and South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Authority and Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association are acting now.

The waste management authority kicked off Bear Logic month July 1 with a discussion about a bear-box loan program for the Basin, as well as a bear-box pilot program at Tahoe Keys. These programs highlight the use of bear-proof boxes that surround 32-gallon garbage cans and 64-gallon totes in residential areas.

The smaller boxes are already in use in South Lake Tahoe, but the loan program is new and focuses on residents with wildlife issues stemming from the inadequate containment of garbage. It seeks to make the boxes more affordable for those who need them.

"It seems like a good way of keeping waste where it should be," Wendy David, mayor of South Lake Tahoe, said at the meeting.

Administration details of the loan program are still being worked out, and it has not been approved yet. Future meetings will determine who will administer and finance the program, according to the waste management authority.

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Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal has already implemented a bear-box loan program, and South Tahoe Refuse & Recycling Services representatives expressed interest in meeting with experts from Tahoe and Truckee to further explore the project.

"We're not opposed, but we want to do more research," Jeff Tillman, South Tahoe Refuse president, said at the meeting.

The Tahoe Keys pilot program, if approved, will be an optional program for Keys residents looking for an alternative way to dispose of waste. Currently, the Keys offer approximately 30 dumpsters that comply with bear-proof ordinances.

According to John Marchini, South Tahoe Refuse co-owner, homeowners would sign up for a house service that includes purchase of a 300-pound, heavy-duty steel bear box and 64-gallon tote.

The 64-gallon totes are only being offered to Tahoe Keys residents wishing to participate in the pilot program, as they require pickup by a special truck with lifting equipment. To avoid duplication of trucks and labor, South Tahoe Refuse only has the means to use the special truck on the Keys' one-day-a-week garbage service.

According to a representative from McCain, Inc. — the company building the boxes — pricing is not finalized, but is estimated to be approximately $899 for a single 64-gallon tote. For bear-boxes that hold two 64-gallon totes, pricing is expected to be $1,199 to $1,299. House service fee is an additional $3.80 per tote, per month.

Before taking further steps, South Tahoe Refuse and Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association are finalizing and defining ideas in order to have a solidified plan to bring to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The waste management authority will meet again Sept. 23 to discuss the progress of the bear-box programs.