Andy Timmins: 603-788-3164
Lt. James Goss: 603-744-5470 or 603-271-3361
Lt. Robert Bryant: 603-271-3127
August 23, 2010
North Conway Man Injured by Dumpster-diving Bear
NORTH CONWAY, N.H. -- A man had a physical encounter with a black bear while emptying his garbage at his apartment complex in North Conway, N.H., on Sunday, August 22, 2010. Jeff Allard, a resident of Cathedral Crossing Apartments in North Conway, was throwing garbage into a dumpster when the bear scratched his shoulder and knocked him to the ground as it bounded out of the dumpster through a side access door.
Allard had gotten home from work after dark and proceeded to take his household trash out to the apartment complex's dumpster, which is equipped with a bear-proof steel top. As Allard approached the dumpster, he noticed that the side door was open, but because of the darkness, he did not notice a bear rummaging around inside it. He threw his garbage bag into the dumpster, which startled the bear. The surprised bruin immediately reached its paw out to grab the side of the dumpster to pull itself out. In the process, the bear’s paw scratched Allard's shoulder, causing him to fall backwards to the ground. Allard immediately got to his feet, backed away and watched the bear climb out of the dumpster and run off into the woods.
Allard sustained three cuts to his right shoulder that measured approximately 5 inches in length, requiring 16 stitches. He recounted that he was immediately frightened by the bear, but quickly realized that the animal was as startled by the incident as he was. He did not feel that the bear was acting aggressively, but rather was trying to escape as quickly as possible.
Allard said that residents of the apartment complex occasionally see bears at the facility's dumpster, but not on a routine basis. This bear had been at the dumpster several nights before, and had shown up periodically throughout the summer. As a result of bears getting into garbage in years past, the facility had installed bear-proof dumpsters with locking metal tops and side doors. The side door had been kept shut with a clip, but the clip had since broken. As a result, the bear was able to open the side door, climb in and access the garbage.
Bears are easily attracted to accessible food supplies including garbage, says Andy Timmins, bear biologist for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
"Fish and Game, in conjunction with USDA-Wildlife Services, responds to approximately 600 bear complaints per year, many of which are caused by garbage that is available to bears," said Timmins. "Accessible dumpsters continue to be a growing problem in the state. Most dumpsters have either plastic tops or dilapidated metal tops that will not keep bears out. A bear-proof dumpster must have a metal top that can be locked so that a bear cannot get on top of the dumpster and pull the top open. Side doors must be locked shut with a sturdy clip or latch. If you discover that clips and locks are worn or broken, replace them with new components. If your current dumpster is inadequate, contact your dumpster company and request a dumpster that will keep a bear out. If you notice a bear frequenting your yard, immediately address the attractants."
In terms of bear/human conflicts, this year appears similar to average years, according to Timmins. This year, however, a large number of the complaints came over a relatively short period of time, specifically during July and early August. In many years, abundant summer food crops cause bear complaints to drop-off dramatically by mid to late July. This year, poor blueberry and raspberry crops during July perpetuated complaints during that month. The abundant blackberry crop over the past couple of weeks has resulted in a recent decline in complaints.
The North Conway incident and others throughout the state are a reminder that residents, visitors and business owners must all do their part in preventing conflicts with bears by keeping garbage, grills, birdseed, pet food and other attractants locked away. For more information, visit www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm.
If you have questions about bear-related problems, you can get technical advice by calling the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services, located in Concord, N.H., at the following toll-free number: 1-888-749-2327 (1-888-SHY-BEAR).
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