Aspen Police, neighbors apply for bear management grant | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen Police, neighbors apply for bear management grant

Gov. Polis made $1M available for communities in Colorado to ramp up their bear-human conflict response

The Aspen Police Department is joining forces with other governmental entities in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond to apply for a $250,000 grant toward education efforts around wildlife and human interaction.

Gov. Jared Polis made $1 million available to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a grant cycle that is the first of its kind, according to CPW Officer Matt Yamashita, who supervises the Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Vail areas.

“It’s never been implemented before in the state,” he said.



Knowing that $1 million doesn’t go far, Yamashita said he tapped the jurisdictions in what’s known as “Area 8” and includes Glenwood Springs, Glenwood Canyon and the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys to apply for one grant.

“Instead of competing against each other, why not join forces?” he said.




The grants are for local governments and community groups for projects intended to prevent conflict with bears and encourage coexistence, said Ginna Gordon, community response supervisor for the APD.

“CPW is taking the lead in submitting the application,” she said.

She noted that after having conversations with CPW, the APD felt the most effective way to leverage the grant funding was to join with other governing bodies to submit a joint grant application.

“We decided we are stronger together,” Gordon said, adding that the upper valley has the lion’s share of bear habitat and problems.

Yamashita said the ask from the CPW was that jurisdictions contribute financially toward a matching grant.

He said there are 13 different partners and 90% of the municipalities have committed money, as well as two out of three counties, but he hopes for total buy-in.

The city via the APD will commit up to $10,000 in matching funds if awarded the grant in hopes it gets a sizable chunk of the pie.

“Municipalities who are willing to put more skin in the game will likely get more money,” Gordon said.

Yamashita said most communities in Colorado have bear problems and he acknowledges that they can’t buy their way out of the problem but with regional messaging in each jurisdiction, human behavior around trash management could be managed better.

“These bears don’t see municipal and jurisdictional boundaries and we want to address that,” he said, adding that one community might be addressing bear-human conflict but the one next door isn’t.

In a memo to council, Gordon noted that the grant money will advance APD’s wildlife nuisance efforts.

“We feel that due to our location in core bear habitat, the city’s commitment to seeking new ways to address human-bear interactions and our track record of seeking community buy-in and participation in resolving such conflicts, this investment will help move the needle regionally in educating and helping citizens and visitors alike understand the importance of respect for bears in their habitat,” she wrote.

The APD is down five sworn officers, including two community resource officers who typically respond to bear calls.

City officials told The Aspen Times last week that the public should expect less response to bear calls due to the short-staffing within the police department.

Gordon said the APD is partnering with other city departments to help with enforcement and is asking the community to assist in educating visitors on what the trash ordinance is and keeping an eye out for violations.

“We need the help of the community asking them to take an active role in educating their neighbors,” she said. “Let’s be proactive about it.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com

Recent Aspen bear trends

2019:

The Aspen Police Department responded to approximately 960 bear calls within the city limits (one of the most active years on record).

• Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported that 20% of its bear calls for Colorado occurred in Pitkin County.

• 273 calls involving bears gaining or attempting to gain entry into refuse (trash, recycle, compost) containers.

• 59 calls involving bear home intrusions (these are only the ones that have been reported to the police and are reflective of a small portion of actual home intrusions).

• The Aspen Police Department responded to two incidents where a bear inflicted injuries on a human and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office responded to one. These instances accounted for 80% of these types of interactions statewide.

2020:

It was a milder year in respect to bear activity in the city of Aspen. There was a total of 262 bear calls for service. This was a 70% decrease in reported bear activity from 2019 to 2020.

• 14 bear home intrusions.

• 97 calls involving bears gaining or attempting to gain entry into refuse (trash, recycle, compost) containers.

• There was one report of a bear inflicting injuries on a human in Pitkin County during 2020.

• The ample supply of natural food sources available in 2020, along with the decreased restaurant activity and early business closures, directly correlated with the decline in overall bear contacts for the year.

2021:

It was another mild bear year with 312 contacts and more activity in September and October due to lower natural food source availability at a time when the bears are undergoing hyperphagia.

• Of note was the renewed partnership between city departments to mitigate attractants, identify potential conflicts, educate and enforce ordinances more effectively.

2022:

Further conversation is anticipated on developing a more comprehensive and focused approach to wildlife management and education.

This strategy will consider the unique challenges that persist in the community pertaining to attractants, infrastructure, education and enforcement.

*Source: The Aspen Police Department

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