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MHLC Connects ODFW with Vacasa to Support BearWise Mt. Hood Project

By Michelle M. Winner

MHLC Connects ODFW with Vacasa to Support BearWise Mt. Hood Project

Protecting our black bear population as an essential part of our ecosystem and co-existing with them is a crucial livability issue in preserving Mt. Hood’s natural beauty. Once bears become habituated to people through access to human food, they become a threat to human safety and ultimately face their demise. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) reports that human interactions with bears show a significant rise. Unsurprisingly, this rise correlates with the increasing number of non-resident guests. Many Short-Term Rental (STR) owners and managers request that the guests put the trash out upon checkout.

With a weekly pickup scheduled, garbage can sit out for days, attracting bears and other wildlife.

Of the “STR garbage out too early” issue, Cheyenne Bliss-Brown of Bliss Sanitary Service says, “Unfortunately, we haven’t found the best way. We advise that they have their cleaning crew, property manager, or anyone come to the property and put it out (on pick-up day). However, we haven’t had much success with that. If they are in active bear areas, we advise the homeowner to build a roadside enclosure to house their cans. Enclosures must be anchored to a cement pad to ensure the enclosure is not knocked over. Anything made out of wood or light plastic, the bear will shred.” Bliss offers commercial-style trash cans that their customers can get on loan from Bliss. Or purchase a Brute 32-gallon can at Home Depot, but, Cheyenne says, bears will rip open most so-called “bear-proof” cans that are plastic.

The new STR Regulations for unincorporated Clackamas County mandate covering and securing garbage cans and a weekly pick-up. They don’t require bear-proof cans. Residents are left to pick up and discard garbage on the roadside in front of vacant STRs. Clackamas County Commissioners will not revisit this issue until the pilot program concludes in two years. Still, you can post a complaint and picture at https://mthoodlive.com to assist the Mt. Hood Livability Coalition (MHLC) in gathering data on neighborhood issues.

The MHLC decided that STR guests, owners and managers needed to learn more about bear behaviors through education. They founded ODFW’s BearWise program, which offers free materials and information.

MHLC proposed introducing the ODFW BearWise program to the Vacasa vacation rental management company in the Mt. Hood area. Vacasa’s Mt. Hood general manager, Crista Copoulos, was spearheading an offering of bear-resistant garbage cans to Vacasa owners for purchase and she welcomed MHLC’s invitation to network with the BearWise project and ODFW’s Assistant District Wildlife Biologist, Lindsey Sanders. Bear-shaped fridge magnets with BearWise basics and flyers with bear-safety Vacation Tips will be placed in each of Vacasa’s 200 Mt. Hood rentals. The Mount Hood Livability Coalition is grateful to both parties for supporting livability in the Mt Hood area for the bears, residents and wildlife. It is a small first step but an important one. You can find bear information at https://bearwise.org. If you are a steel bear-proof box fabricator on the mountain, please contact MHLC at info@mthoodlive.com.

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