No bear clause in rental agreement


Raccoons and Cats and Bears, Oh My! The campus apartment’s dumpster is no stranger to racoons and feral cats. Residents have become accustomed to their residence and most appreciate their scrappy knack for survival, giving them a wide berth to allow them to enjoy their trash-fueled freedom. But a new presence now threatens the fragile balance of the dumpster ecosystem and tenants of the apartments on Badger Way are being urged to reevaluate their habits in an effort to keep that balance intact.

A black bear has been spotted, more than once, rummaging through the heaps of refuse produced by The Kids on the Hill (a considerable portion of which are, no doubt, paper plates greased by Hot Pockets and General Tso’s addictive sauce), creating a  safety concern for the staff and students who spend much of their time there.

Director of Student Activities and Community Service and administrator of the college apartment community, Sarah Thornton, has been spearheading the effort to deter the bear’s encroachment into the relatively human territory of the dumpster nook.

“So, a little later in the summer, we noticed an uptick in a lot of trash that was outside of the dumpster. I am not a Vermont native, so I was like, wow, and the raccoons are really strong here!” Thornton said. “But one of our residents ended up seeing the bear. The primary reason the bear has stayed is because a lot of our trash wasn’t making it inside of the dumpster.”

Thornton has worked with the physical plant staff at NVU-J to employ anti-bear measures for the fall semester. “We quickly worked with physical plant, and they ordered us a bear proof dumpster, which has much heavier doors, as well as locked-in karabiners.” Thornton said. “So, the bear’s presence now is primarily because some folks are having issues with putting their trash inside of the dumpsters. We have some residents who are leaving their trash outside of the dumpsters or throwing trash or recycling that isn’t clean in the recycling bins.”

The residents’ level of indifference to the bear situation will be the key factor determining the future of the entire ordeal. When asked their thoughts on the bear situation, college apartments resident Bea Blacke said of the bear, “He is furry, he is chunky, and he’s having a good time.”

Properly disposing of one’s waste is the best and easiest way to keep residents of the apartments, and, frankly, the bear, safe from any unfortunate and avoidable outcomes.

Thornton went on to emphasize that the best way to keep the bear from creating an unsafe situation is to make sure that all refuse is placed completely into the dumpsters with the lid shut all the way. “I have been reaching out pretty steadily to our residents to encourage them to use the dumpster,” she said. “I’ve actually made fun little signs that I’m putting on their doors today that say “Only you can stop the college apartment from eating our trash” and they have Smokey the Bear on them. So, it’s really about observing the proper way to throw away your trash and just honestly going the extra step, you know, for everyone’s safety. Because it’s not just bears that are getting into the trash. It’s a lot of raccoons. We also have a lot of cats up there. Just taking an extra minute to do things properly will make a world of difference.”

Thornton also went on to add that when trash is strewn about the dumpster area, the employees end up with the undesirable task of cleaning up a largely unavoidable problem. “It’s really just about going the extra step to keep everybody safe and keep our staff from having to come clean up an unnecessary mess.”

While black bears are notoriously timid and generally prefer to coexist with humans in peace, they are nonetheless wild animals with enough speed, strength, and athleticism to peel the face off an NFL nose-tackle. Vermont has seen some unfortunate instances in just the past few months of peaceful bears being shot due to the negligence of man and his inability deter them from encroaching on the thin barrier between civilization and the wild.