ASPEN - Some homeowners in Aspen and Pitkin County are apparently getting duped into thinking their trash haulers are providing bear-resistant containers, the state wildlife officer for the Aspen area said Thursday.
Kevin Wright of the Colorado Division of Wildlife said he has seen some heavy plastic trash containers, also known as poly containers, that don't have secure enough lids to keep bears from breaking in and getting trash.
Wright responded to a recent complaint about a bear hanging around a house on Midnight Mine Road in the Castle Creek Valley. He said when he investigated he found the residence's trash container didn't shut tightly enough. The lid had small cables with clips, but he could pry the lid open to about 6 inches.
"I'm just me," Wright said. "I'm not a bear."
If a bear breaches a trash container, the homeowner risks trouble. "Once they get into these containers, they'll be hanging around your house," Wright said.
He has seen similar trash containers in use at homes elsewhere in the Castle Creek Valley and on Red Mountain. He said the containers do not comply with the wildlife codes of Aspen and Pitkin County. Trash containers need reinforcement all along the lid to prevent a bear from prying them open, Wright said. He is skeptical that any of the heavy plastic containers can really keep a bear out.
"I haven't seen one yet that hasn't failed," he said.
Aspen strengthened its trash regulations for homeowners in March. Starting June 1, people must have bear-resistant trash containers, and they can put their containers out only from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the day of pick-up.
Homeowners can no longer put trash bags out on the curb. "It literally looks like a buffet for bears," said Stephanie Dasaro, a spokeswoman for the Aspen Police Department.
A list of the bear-resistant containers is available at www.aspenbears.com. That list includes some of the heavy plastic containers of the type Wright doesn't favor.
Wright said homeowners need to ask their trash hauler specifically if their containers passed the grizzly bear test, which assesses how long it takes a grizzly to break into the container. There are different ratings, so homeowners much make sure the containers are rated high enough to meet the Aspen and Pitkin County regulations.
Aspen officials spent considerable time going over the new regulations and container requirements with trash haulers, Dasaro said. Homeowners who don't feel their containers are adequate should call their trash hauler and ask for alternatives.
"Some are more interested in helping than others," Dasaro said. "If your hauler's not playing ball, look elsewhere or call another hauler."