GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Gatlinburg is stepping up its efforts to curb interactions between bears and humans with a new, expanded animal resistant dumpster program.

Gatlinburg Sanitation Department customers will be provided a city-owned animal resistant dumpster that will be owned and maintained by the city. Customers who use privately-owned dumpsters can elect to allow the City to replace their containers with the new city-owned receptacles at no cost to the them.

Dumpsters will be distributed over the next year. Customers who are located in areas prone to bear activity and food-waste producing businesses will be prioritized during the distribution.

The Gatlinburg Sanitation Department will cease collection of trash from the current privately owned dumpsters on December 31, 2024.

“The City is concerned with finding solutions to help limit interactions between humans and bears and the creation of this animal resistant dumpster program is an effort to better secure the trash, which lures bears into highly populated areas seeking sources of food,” Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle said.

Additionally, the Gatlinburg City Commission recently approved an expansion of the areas covered by the Animal Resistant Garbage Device zone. Properties in the zone are required to have garbage storage containers that feature metal lids with latches or be of a design approved by the City’s Public Works Director.

Areas that have been added to the zone required to use animal-resistant containers are all properties that are zoned in the Commercial Aesthetic (CA) Zone and all properties north of East Parkway, between its intersection at Traffic Light No. 3 and Roaring Fork Road.

“This zone has been expanded to include more properties that have, through collaboration between the City and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, been identified as areas where bears seek sources of food,” Ogle said. “Requiring more animal-resistant containers will help to reduce the number of human and bear encounters, keeping people and the animals safe.”

Customers who receive commercial dumpster service will be assessed a monthly rate of $75 per dumpster. Customers who participated in the curbside pickup service will be assessed a $15 per month fee. These fees will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Unsecured garbage is a major contributor to interactions that can be dangerous to both humans and bears. One bear cub was killed and another was injured in August after they were struck by a vehicle while they were eating unsecured trash near a Sevier County roadway.