A black bear walks down Ira 2nd Street in August, 2022. (Photo by Petersburg resident Stephanie Silva) Residents like Silva have been sharing photos and notes on social media about where bears have been seen in town.

Petersburg police officers are starting to write tickets to residents who are showing no effort in preventing bears from getting into their trash.  

That’s according to Police Chief Jim Kerr who addressed the borough assembly, August 15.  

“To try and get the bear issue to drop before school starts we started issuing citations,”  he said.

The borough passed a new garbage law last year that requires residents to make a “reasonable effort” to secure garbage. That could mean storing bins indoors until the morning of pickup or securing the lids with ratchet straps.  

The borough does not supply or require bear-proof trash cans. They provide large plastic bins with flip-up lids. Black bears tip them on their sides and pull out the contents, often scattering it around.  

Kerr said most residents do their part in preventing problems. He says his officers aren’t writing many tickets, about half a dozen so far.  

“The citations are issued to people who make zero attempt,” he said. “These are the people that just left it out there, no strap on, so those are the ones that are getting the citations.” 

In the past, the police department would focus on educating the public about bears. That effort ramped up in 2020, when an unusually high number of bears roamed the streets because of the poor salmon and berry season. The police teamed up with local wildlife officials to convey the message: if bears can’t find food, they’ll leave town.  

Kerr said officers follow a guide when responding to residents whose trash has been targeted by bears, considering the person’s actions.  

“If someone attempts to secure their trash can, we can’t prevent bears from getting…if a bear wants into something they’re going to get into it,” Kerr said. “So, those people get education.” 

The ordinance states that residents are responsible for securing their garbage until 8:00 a.m. the day it’s scheduled to be picked up by collectors. Kerr said that he told his officers they should be lenient starting at 7:30 a.m. to allow people to put out their trash before they go to work.