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What is Operation Save the Bears

Operation Save the Bears is an initiative by Los Alamos County Environmental Services to deploy bear-resistant dumpsters and roll carts for all Los Alamos County businesses and residential households. In FY22, the County Council allocated $2.4 million to implement the project. Existing commercial trash dumpsters and residential roll carts will be collected and repurposed as recycle dumpsters/roll carts or salvaged depending on the condition.

Why Was it Created?

Operation Save the Bears intends to protect Los Alamos citizens, as well as bears living in the surrounding environment by reducing the number of human/bear encounters. Traditional trash dumpsters/roll carts are an easy food source and once bears consume human food, they become habituated and will return to the original food source year after year.

Additionally, this can be a learned behavior, with mothers teaching their cubs. Bears that lose their natural fear of humans and human activity are more like to become problem bears and be involved in a negative human-bear encounter. In the past, problematic bears are relocated once or twice and then euthanized.

The bear-resistant dumpsters/roll carts prevent bears and other wildlife from rummaging through trash in search of food. Replacing every traditional trash dumpster/roll cart in the County with a bear-resistant dumpster/roll cart will secure this food source and encourage bears to search for food in the wilderness and not in residential and business neighborhoods. Consequently, this behavior will reduce the number of human and bear encounters within the community.

Who is it for?

Operation Save the Bears is for all Los Alamos County residents and businesses. It also aims to protect the bears and other wildlife in the surrounding environment.

Where Will Operations Save the Bears be Deployed

This project will be deployed in both Los Alamos and White Rock and will encompass collecting and replacing all 260 commercial trash dumpsters and 7,200 residential trash roll carts.

Since this is a large purchase ($2.4 million), we want to ensure the selected carts will work for our customers. Therefore, we have placed a minimum order (680 residential roll carts) that we will deploy and gather feedback, before making the larger purchase (approximately 6,520). Carts will be first deployed to North Community 3.

This area was chosen based on the highest concentration of reported bear incidents, according to Los Alamos Police Department data. This will be followed by an evaluation period of around 2 months, where we will solicit feedback such as ease of use, bear resistance, and overall customer reaction. If this roll cart model is found to be acceptable, the County will order the remaining ~6,520 roll carts and the carts will then be distributed to the remainder of the community.

Please note that the manufacturers have communicated that they are experiencing delays in manufacturing of the carts, bear resistant lids and locking mechanisms. We will do our best to get your rolls carts here as fast as possible.

When Will it be Implemented?

Environmental Services plans on rolling out Operation Save the Bears as quickly as possible and will begin replacing existing dumpsters/roll carts with bear-resistant dumpsters/roll carts in June 2022 and continue through June 2023.

How can I participate in Operation Save the Bears?

It is not necessary to register. Environmental Services will distribute your bear-resistant dumpster/roll cart to you sometime between June 2022 and June 2023. Once you’ve received your dumpster/roll cart, bag all trash and fully close the bear dumpster/roll cart upon disposal. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear. Please, do not feed the bears and remember to remove or secure other food sources (e.g., fruit trees, pet food, or bird feeders) that may attract bears to your yard.

For additional information contact solidwaste@lacnm.us or call 505.662.8163 

How to Unlock Residential Bear Resistant Roll Carts

Distribution Map

Below are the addresses that we will start distributing new bear resistant roll carts to in the North Community 3 area:

Learn How to Be Bearwise

Commercial Bear Resistant Dumpsters

Information will be provided soon.