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Fighting Animal Instinct

Watertown man's cans keep bears' claws out of the trash

WATERTOWN It looks just like a regular trash can, and that's the point.

But unlike a normal garbage receptacle, the BEARicuda Stealth Can prevents wild animals from bears to raccoons to squirrels from breaking in and spreading the contents across the front lawn.

"There's a serious problem in many parks and communities where they don't want to kill these bears, but they want to recondition their behavior," said BEARicuda owner Kevin Lacilla of Watertown.

Lacilla said it's his job to let bears know that food sources don't exist in residential areas.

Kevin With Stealth Bearproof Garbage Can
WATERTOWN, CT-07 May 2013- Kevin Lacilla, owner of BEARicuda, shows off his bear-proof garbage cans outside his home in Watertown. Laraine Weschler Republican-American
The business was born out of another Lacilla owned for 20 years, Doing Away With Grime, or DAWG, which made spill-control products. He was inspired to create the spin-off company after a customer asked whether a spill-containment product could be used to fend off bears.

When he sold DAWG in 2007, he kept the concept of the bear-proof trash can and worked to develop a new line of products. The company also makes wooden trash can enclosures and large metal, Dumpster-style trash bins.

BEARicuda's products are tested at the Living With Wildlife Foundation in West Yellowstone, Mont., where captive bears are trained to break into cans baited with food. A video on BEARicuda's website,www.bearicuda.com, shows a bear picking up the can in its arms, pushing, prodding, and tearing at it, to no avail. The can remains firmly shut.

His cans which are priced from $69 to $260 depending on the model and size use strong plastic, and steel is wrapped around the top part of the bin, with a hidden metal latch that makes it easy for human fingers but not for big, furry paws to open.

"It's a very sleek design," Lacilla said. "Aesthetically, the can looks nice, and it works."

It's a niche market, he admits, but for the small number of people dealing with unwanted wildlife it's an acute problem that takes a specific product to solve. He expects his market to grow along with bear populations and the work of advocacy groups that don't want bears hunted, he added.

Although his sales and marketing office is at 3 West St. in Litchfield, Lacilla sells the cans through his website and via local distributors throughout the country and in Canada. He regularly travels to Charlotte, N.C., where most of his products are manufactured and assembled, and Pennsylvania, where his more decorative line is created. He has seven full-time and 2 part-time employees.

He sells a lot of cans in New Jersey, where there is a growing bear population, he said, noting the town of West Milford, N.J., recently purchased 3,000 cans for its residents.

He typically sells more than 1,000 cans per bear season, which runs from March through October, he said.

Lacilla said he likes to have fun with his company, toeing a fine line between professionalism and humor. His three children whom he calls his three little bears are his biggest critics and inspiration, he said.

"I try to incorporate their childlike insight into things I can bring into my products," he said.

Reporter Laraine Weschler, Waterbury Republican.

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