Bears are clearly enjoying the government shutdown

happy bear photo
CC BY 2.0 Beverly & Pack

Since the government shutdown got underway last week, the resulting furlough of federal employees and the closure of public land hasn't been good news for anyone.

Well, except maybe for bears.

In Fairbanks, Alaska, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for routine maintenance on the grounds of White Mountains National Recreation Area. Due to recent furloughs however, those duties are now delegated to just two rangers remaining on staff. Not surprisingly, making sure all the trash bins along the park's 1,000,000 acres are emptied on time has proven impossible for the pair.

Despite the shutdown, the sprawling recreation area has remained open for hikers, hunters, and other day-trippers. And while most of those visitors have been careful to safely dispose of their waste, it's adding up to be a problem.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, BLM ranger Jonathan Priday and his one remaining partner can't keep up with all the trash. Now, opportunistic grizzly bears are clearly enjoying the fact that those formerly impossible-to-paw-open trash cans have been bested by squabbling in Washington D.C.:

“We’ve been having bear problems with some of our bear-proof trash containers,” says Priday. “The containers get overfilled and it defeats the locking mechanism on the bear-proof containers because the door won’t shut.”

The rangers worry that unless the recreation area is restaffed soon and the trash issue is sorted out, local bears will get into the habit finding an easy meal of discarded food. To be sure, for Priday, whose job it is keeping the park safe for both visitors and wildlife, the government shutdown has been a step in the wrong direction.

“Typically I don’t have to deal with garbage, but I am now,” Priday said, perhaps purposefully leaving ambiguous to which 'garbage' he was referring.

Tags: Alaska | Animals