Basalt’s bear ordinance may be a little too tough on bird lovers |

Basalt’s bear ordinance may be a little too tough on bird lovers

With spring on the horizon, Basalt officials are more concerned about the birds and the bears than the birds and the bees.

Officials are trying to figure out how a bear-friendly ordinance should deal with residents’ bird feeders. The idea is to encourage people to stop providing enticing snacks with bird seed and hummingbird nectar. But no one wants to snuff some people’s passion for bird watching.

A draft proposal of the ordinance would require bird feeders to be at least 10 feet above the ground during months when bruins roam around, roughly April until November. But the Town Council decided Wednesday night that more debate is needed.

Councilman Leroy Duroux wasn’t ready to let the cat out of the bag when it comes to bird feeders.

“There are a number of people who live for the first hummingbird to come in,” he said. “They have contests to see who gets the first hummingbird.”

He also expressed concern about establishing rules that are too difficult to enforce without hiring another staffer.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt, the primary proponent of the bear-friendly ordinance, said the idea isn’t to establish heavy-handed enforcement.

“In reality, there’s isn’t going to be a hummingbird cop out there,” Whitsitt said.

She said she figured that homeowners who have a hungry bear sniffing around the house because of a bird feeder will probably voluntarily comply.

The ordinance is also meant to educate people about what human practices around the home and yard attract bears.

The biggest target is trash treatment. The ordinance, if approved, would require businesses to store garbage in trash-proof containers. Residents would be required to haul that garbage out to the curb on the day of pick-up, not the night before.

The town government plans to take the lead by being the first to comply. It is shopping on the best deal for approximately 40 bear-proof trash containers to be used in parks and other public places.

On the advice of state wildlife officials, the draft ordinance also advises requiring bird feeders to be hung 10 feet high, probably out of reach for all but the smarter-than-the-average bear.

Basalt officials hope to have the rules in place by May when hungry bruins emerge from hibernation. The town had unprecedented human encounters with bears last summer and fall. An early frost and dry summer wiped out the bears’ natural food supply, so they came to town in search of handouts.

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Posted: Friday, March 2, 2001

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