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Automated dumpsters in SW Montana help keep wildlife away

Posted at 3:52 PM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 18:40:39-04

Madison and Beaverhead counties have figured out a way to keep animals, especially bears, out of their transfer stations.

Madison County has nine sites where residents can dump garbage, and one is now the first of its kind with automatic operation.

"Yeah, it helps to contain the garbage especially with wildlife getting in to the garbage. You have raccoons, magpies, other animals opening up garbage bags, scattering things around," Project Leader Steve Primm said. "Then if you add wind to that, you end up with quite bit of garbage blowing all over the landscape.

The Nevada City project is the first of its kind in Madison County. It cost $15,000 to install the operating unit, batteries and the solar collector that keeps them charged. It's designed for two main purposes, keeping animals out and allowing the public to use it safely.

Now, with the push of a button, the dumpster lid lifts and then holds for people to safely deposit their trash. Another button closes the lid.

The low maintenance is a plus, and so is the effectiveness of keeping animals out.

"Particularly as bear populations expand and we become more and more aware of the potential for conflicts, I think we're gonna see more of these projects like this to keep the bears out of these types of sites,” Primm said.

He added that with limited maintenance these dumpsters should function as-is for 10 to 12 years.

The project was paid for, in part, by the town of Virginia City and grants from the Yellowstone and Yukon Conservation Initiative, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- the agency assigned to taking care of and managing grizzly bear populations.