Unattended garbage at empty property attracts bears

Posted at 9:29 AM, May 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-31 11:29:47-04

EVARO — An unkempt property north of Missoula has officials concerned due to a pile up of garbage outside the home. Unattended waste outdoors is bad for wildlife, and officials have received calls about bears getting into the garbage including a sow with cubs.

Clean-up efforts are slow because the site off of Highway 93 near Evaro is seemingly abandoned. Officials can’t trespass to address the mess, and ultimately the owner of the property is responsible.

MTN News talked with Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks bear specialist Jamie Jonkel who said he's received quite a few calls about bears being spotted at the home and carrying garbage into the woods.

“There's probably, my guess is about five pickup loads of wet garbage, kitchen food related waste, just stacked up against the house, and I've had phone calls for people just driving down the highway seeing bears walking across the meadow with bags of garbage in their mouth,“ Jonkel said.

Bears have an extremely strong sense of smell. Once their noses alert them to nearby food, they become conditioned to return to that location. When bears learn about human trash and start to seek it out habitually, wildlife officials may have to relocate or euthanize the animals.

“It's extremely dangerous for the bears because they are developing bad habits they figured out what garbage is, and maybe will now cast off on adjacent properties,” Jonkel explained.

This home is situated right on the wildland-urban interface, so those living in the area need to be extra cautious about attracting bears. Black bears and grizzlies frequent this area near Evaro.

Wildlife officials came to the site last week to assess this situation and are now trying to contact the property owner.

“I've been looking all over. I've called about four or five different numbers, and it just leads to businesses that have been shut down," Jonkel said.

A search on Montana Cadastral shows the property linked to a post-office box in Great Falls and no phone number - increasing the challenge of mandated clean-up.

Wildlife officials do not plan to set up traps for bears until the area is cleaned up.

A Republic Services garbage bin was placed near the property when MTN News investigated, signaling a move for someone to clean up the trash. However, the unattended garbage still poses a threat to bears and other wildlife.

Environmental Health Division manager Jeanna Miller of the Missoula City-County Health Department told MTN News this property has a history of garbage violations and that a letter has been sent to the property owner: REO Holdings LLC.

She told us property owners are obligated to actively address solid waste violations, but that enforcement is more challenging when an owner is a non-local company.