High school students are making Kodiak Island safer by building bear-resistant dumpsters.

One part beautification effort and one part learning to live with bears, the bear-resistant dumpster project is a multi-year collaboration between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Highmark Marine Fabrication, Alaska Waste, the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust and Kodiak High School.

Standard dumpsters are brought to the school and retrofitted to be Kodiak bear-resistant by high school welding students who learn Highmark Marine Fabrication’s techniques and design.

Kodiak High School welding students working on a bear-resistant dumpster courtesy of Isabel Grant, Defender's consultant.
Isabel Grant

Kodiak High School welding students work on a bear-resistant dumpster.

These bear-resistant dumpsters have previously proven successful in the community. High school art students then give the dumpsters a make-over, creating art with bear and environmental conservation messages.

Practical and aesthetically pleasing, project organizers hope these new dumpsters will reduce the number of bears in the community and encourage residents to be proactive about bear coexistence.

Like many Alaska communities, Kodiak frequently deals with bears raiding garbage, gardens, chicken coops and other potential food sources. Unfortunately, these events set up harmful interactions between humans and bears.

Keeping people and bears safe requires adopting tools that prevent human-bear conflict. Bear-resistant trash containers are one way to keep bears out of the trash and reduce potential harm from bears wandering through a community.

Kodiak High School welding students work on a bear-resistant dumpster courtesy of Isabel Grant, Defender's consultant.
Isabel Grant

A Kodiak High School student showing off their work on a bear-resistant dumpster.

However, bear-resistant trash containers can be costly for individuals and communities. The dumpster retrofitting project supplies the community with bear-resistant dumpsters at a much lower cost than shipping these containers to the island.

The retrofitting program is still in its early stages. But in the future, the coordinating organizations plan to submit their dumpster design to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) where the Kodiak dumpsters will be tested against real bears for approval.

The IGBC is a grizzly bear conservation organization that supports recovery and delisting of endangered grizzly bears in the Lower 48. This includes research into effective bear coexistence tools. IGBC keeps a running list of approved models on its website. If Kodiak’s design is certified and approved by the IGBC, Kodiak’s project could expand to other Alaska regions. Initiatives like the Kodiak dumpster retrofitting project are key to reducing human-bear conflict. The project demonstrates how communities can creatively resolve to live with bears.

Special thanks to Hunter Blair and Brendan Harrington. Hunter is the Kodiak High School welding teacher who teaches students how to create these bear-resistant dumpsters for the community.

Brendan is the high school art instructor overseeing the artistic portion of this project. To support Kodiak Island’s project and the high school students’ work, contact Nate Svoboda with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to contribute funds for tools, metal, and art supplies. Email: nathan.svoboda@alaska.gov


Isabel Grant, Defenders of Wildlife consultant, wrote this piece that was featured in the Kodiak Daily Mirror on June 23, 2023, on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife, which promotes human-bear coexistence in Alaska.

Learn more at www.defenders.org/got-bears

Defenders of Wildlife is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect all native plants and animals in their natural communities.


Wildlife & Wild Places

Grizzly bear sow

Follow Defenders of Wildlife

facebook twitter instagram youtube medium tiktok threads
Get Updates and Alerts