Sharing the Island Park Caldera with wildlife

By Bruce Ard, City of Island Park Mayor

As we begin another beautiful summer in Island Park, I hope everyone will remember that we share this beautiful caldera with the wildlife.  We can safely co-exist if we work together to help protect our residents, our visitors and the wildlife.

Laurie and I are proud to call the Last Chance area home. Nearly all of our residents and visitors safely store their garbage in secure structures or in bear-resistant containers. Unfortunately, recently the safety of everyone was placed in jeopardy because of the irresponsible actions at one home just outside the City of Island Park city limits. Thank you to everyone who raised awareness of this safety issue. Working together we can keep safety the priority for everyone.

The City of Island Park does have a bear-resistant container ordinance. We hope those living outside the city limits will also consider following these rules and hopefully the Fremont County Commissioners will soon adopt a similar ordinance.

As a reminder, this is from our Development Code

3-14: SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL STANDARDS. It is unlawful to accumulate or store garbage or attractants within the City of Island Park in any manner that allows bears access.

(A) Residential Solid Waste Standards.

1. All residential property shall be required to use International Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) certified bear-resistant garbage containers or containers that have passed the Bear-Resistant Products Testing Program (October 2005) if the attractants are not stored in a bear-resistant building or enclosure.

2. Residential property may, as an alternative to the above, place non-bear resistant garbage containers containing bear attractants out for garbage pickup after 8 a.m. on the morning of waste pickup. After waste pickup, the non-bear resistant garbage container must be resecured and stored inside an enclosed building or inside a bear resistant enclosure by 6 p.m. on the day of waste pickup.

3. It is recommended that bird feeders be hung at least ten (10) feet from the ground, deck, railing or surface and four (4) feet from any structure, tree or limb and have a catch pan attached directly underneath the feed that is two (2) inches larger in diameter than the widest diameter of the feeder itself.

(B) Commercial Solid Waste Standards. Solid waste shall be stored in an enclosed building or in certified bear resistant containers, and shall be clearly marked “Not For Public Use”, and be handled in a manner that does not:

1. All commercial property shall be required to use certified bear-resistant garbage containers/dumpsters that have passed the Bear-Resistant Products Testing Program (October 2005) or else use a bear-resistant building or enclosure in which garbage containers are to be always stored inside this enclosure.

2. All commercial property doing business as a food/drink preparation and service facility shall be required to store grease bins, and stored foods inside a bear-resistant building or enclosure.

I hope the entire Island Park caldera will join in observing these important steps to protect residents, visitors and wildlife. 

Let’s not be remembered as the town that recklessly endangers its wildlife

Last week, a grizzly sow and at least one of her cubs were found rummaging through unsecured garbage in our neighborhood. This sow, which had been frequenting the Last Chance area, and her cubs had been responsibly navigating our neighborhoods, sticking to their natural food sources. Unfortunately, a negligent individual in our community left unsecured garbage on their back deck, next to a shed where it could and should have been stored properly.

Living in bear country, encounters with these magnificent creatures are not uncommon, especially during the summer months. However, most bears manage to coexist with humans by avoiding interaction and foraging at night. We all understand the adage: “A fed bear is a dead bear,” but the consequences go beyond the bear itself. Once a bear associates humans with food, it loses its natural fear, posing a danger to both itself and anyone it encounters. Sadly, in such encounters, it’s often the bear that loses its life.

In light of the increasing frequency of bear-related incidents, ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, it’s essential to educate yourself on the responsibilities of living in bear country. I strongly advocate for the implementation of an ordinance in Island Park, ensuring that incidents like this are punishable by law. People are often motivated by financial consequences, and until it directly impacts their wallets, change may be slow. Unfortunately, our current commissioners and sheriff seem hesitant to support such an ordinance, a decision they may come to regret.

Therefore, it falls upon us—the residents and visitors of this incredible place—to uphold our responsibility to keep our surroundings clean and protect our wildlife, as well as each other. I firmly believe in our collective capability to achieve this goal. Let’s not be remembered as the town that recklessly endangers its wildlife. We can and must do better.