Bear necessities: Aspen looking at new trash lids |

Bear necessities: Aspen looking at new trash lids

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The city of Aspen has been experimenting with different types of bear-resistant trash lids and believes it might have found the right type, said Brian Flynn, special projects manager for the Parks Department.

The one that might do the trick is being fabricated now. After a brief test, it could be the model for all lids on the black bins where people are supposed to deposit trash that’s nonrecyclable. The white-and-green recyclable bins typically don’t attract the animals, and their lids won’t be altered.

“We had to test different lids to try to find that balance point between user-friendly and bear-proof,” he said. “We found a dome-top version we really liked, and we’ve asked (a company) to manufacture a latch for it. They are manufacturing a lockable version of the lid that we like.”

Though the goal is to make the lids super-resistant to bear activity, the lid has to be user-friendly so that people don’t become frustrated with it, compelling them to throw nonrecyclable garbage into the white-and-green bins, which would create a headache for the recycling program.

Flynn said if the lid prototype meets the test, the city can put in an order for enough to cover all the black trash receptacles in town.

The search for the lids was a response to attention the city received last year when bears were plentiful and some of the city’s trash receptacles were being raided, plastic bag and all.

But 2012 was a busy year in Aspen for the bears and the law enforcement agencies, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, that try to keep up with them.

Aspen police dealt with 1,040 calls regarding problem bears last year, well up from 351 in 2010 and 82 in 2008. Some roamed the alleyways at night, looking for food next to secure and not-so-secure restaurant Dumpsters. Others were more daytime-oriented, climbing crab-apple trees along Main Street and other common locales and entertaining summer visitors.

There’s no telling how 2013 will shape up — 2012 was a drought year, and the bears were starved of natural foods in their mountain habitats. More moisture this year could, ideally, result in more natural sustenance and keep them away from town.

The early stats don’t say a whole lot but suggest the city might not be as overrun this summer and fall. In March and April 2012, the Aspen Police Department dealt with 24 bear calls. In the same two months this year, the force has handled 11, said Blair Weyer, Aspen police communications specialist.

The message from officials is the same this year as it was last year: Both businesses and residents should keep their garbage in secure, bear-resistant containers. Don’t do foolish things that help to attract bears, such as leaving just-used barbecue grills dirty overnight or plastic garbage bags containing discarded food outside your unlocked door.

Already, one bear has had to be put down this year by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The bear was causing problems for a resident on Red Mountain, said Perry Will, Area 8 wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

And there was the recent case of a bear shot and killed, wrapped in a tarp and left near a Snowmass Village trash receptacle. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is still investigating that incident, believed to have occurred two weekends ago, and is seeking the public’s help in locating the perpetrator.

“It’s been busy, but we’ve probably seen it busier,” Will said. “It’ll be busy, and by the third week of July we usually know whether it’ll be a mess or not.”

Will said that absent a hard freeze that would affect their food sources, the bears should have a decent supply this year. The bears have a choice to make, he suggested.

“If they want to be a real bear, they have a real opportunity. It’s been a good spring so far,” he said. “If they want to be a Dumpster bear — well, then that’s what we’ve got.”


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