Aspenites ignoring bear essentials
ASPEN ” Bears have teeth; bear ordinances don’t.
Aspen and Pitkin County have highlyhailed ordinances designed to avoid conflicts between humans and bears ” but the regulations are being ignored by humans.
“This year is probably the worst I’ve seen with compliance in Aspen and Pitkin County,” said Kevin Wright, a longtime officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife in the Roaring Fork Valley.
He said he regularly sees overflowing dumpsters at Aspen construction sites and garbage that isn’t properly secured at residences. The city’s ordinance requires use of bear-proof containers.
Even when dumpsters aren’t overflowing, Wright said, they are battered to the point where the lids won’t properly close. In those cases, users should contact the trash company to have replacements delivered.
In other cases, people don’t take the time to latch lids. Bears are smart enough to flip the lids of those dumpsters, Wright said.
In other instances, people are filling bird feeders that attract the bears and they leave windows unsecured so bears can break in. Many of the same problems exist in neighborhoods around Pitkin County.
“Basically, Aspen needs to wake up and get a clue here,” Wright said. “All we’re doing is teaching the bears to come back.”
Wright stopped short of blaming the Aspen and Pitkin County staff for lack of enforcement. He said he recently met with Chris Hoofnagle, the county staffer who oversees enforcement, and believes they crafted a plan for increased enforcement. Hoofnagle was in training Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Wright also credited Rick Wilder from the city of Aspen staff for his efforts, but he said problems with compliance in Aspen are overwhelming. “One person can’t do it all,” he said.
Wilder was off duty Friday; his boss, Tim Ware, didn’t return a message seeking comment.
The commitment of the city and county to enforce their bear ordinances has been an issue in prior years. The county commissioners declined last year to allocate more funds for enforcement. Awareness of the ongoing problem hasn’t spurred any directives by the City Council.
Wright said there is no reason bears would be rummaging in town and rural residences for food right now if they hadn’t equated civilization with food. Nature provides an abundance of flowering plants, roots and insects for bears to consume right now. But bears learn to be freeloaders when humans provide easy pickings.
“I think we have bears that are getting very smart,” Wright said.
Sows are mating now, so they are driving off their yearlings. Those young bears might be particularly susceptible to rummaging for easy sources of food.
One young, adult male, roughly 18 months old, was struck and killed by a vehicle on Highway 82 at about 5 a. m. Friday morning, wildlife officer Kelly Wood said. The bear was crossing the highway near the pedestrian bridge over Highway 82 at Wingo Junction.
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