Bear management begins at home
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Dealing with a bad food year, a number of bears have made their way to Glenwood Springs to find food, often in trash receptacles.
Division of Wildlife (DOW) spokesman Randy Hampton says if they receive a complaint, they will come out and deal with a “nuisance” bear. But it’s up to the property owners to clean up anything that might attract wildlife to their neighborhood.
“From the DOW’s perspective, we rely on the communities to handle trash enforcement,” Hampton said. “If it’s a situation involving trash, we deal with the bear if it’s being a nuisance, but there’s nothing we can do if the trash is still there.”
Glenwood Springs City Council passed an ordinance in 2005 stating that it is unlawful for any person to store refuse outdoors in any container, including commercial trash bins, other than in a wildlife resistant refuse container approved by the DOW or the city of Glenwood Springs. And homeowners with curbside pickup shall not place trash cans out until after 6 a.m. the day of scheduled pickup and have the receptacles brought back in by 8 p.m. the same day.
However, that doesn’t always seem to be the case, according to Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson. He said that the GSPD and the DOW worked together in the spring distributing literature to residents notifying them of what precautions to take to avoid attracting wildlife, not just bears, to their homes.
“We’ve had a really good response from most folks,” Wilson said. “But you always get a few people that aren’t going to make the effort.”
Police have issued a couple of citations this year to area residents, more than in past years, but really haven’t had a big problem with people leaving trash out overnight.
If a problem with trash is detected, GSPD first issues a warning to the property owner to alleviate the situation. If the problem persists, the owners are issued a citation for a court appearance and could be fined $50. A second offense is $250, and on the third the court could order the property owners to purchase and use a wildlife resistant refuse container, Wilson said.
“In the past we’ve seldom had to issue citations to get the appropriate actions from folks,” Wilson said.
In Wilson’s opinion, the problem has more to do with the bears who have grown up feeding on the trash in the area, rather than people disobeying the ordinance.
“Really it’s only been four to five years since we’ve started having problems with bears in the area,” Wilson said. “What we have is a generation of bears that have grown up eating out of our trash cans. They’ve adapted to us.”
Hampton said that bear calls are increasing this year. He attributed a late frost that took out the berry crop and the uncommonly hot summer that’s led to lack of late food crops like the acorn to be factors in the bear activity.
“It’s a pretty bad year for bears,” Hampton said. “Without the berry crops and fall acorn crop we are having a lot of bear activity throughout northwestern Colorado.”
There has been an increase in bear sightings reported to the DOW, Hampton said, especially along Midland Avenue.
“We haven’t had any aggressive behavior like home break-ins, but we’ve got about five bears in the area.” Hampton said. “Mostly calls about bears in fruit trees and trash cans. It’s not a situation where the bears are focusing on any one place.”
The DOW does keep a watch on bear activity, but it’s still the property owners’ responsibility to keep trash secure.
“If the residents aren’t willing to take care of the issue, then they are going to have bears in the neighborhood,” Hampton said. “We are happy to help, but the first issue is cleaning up the trash.”
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