Bears starting to appear in town |

Bears starting to appear in town

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – The bears are back in town.

Late Tuesday night, they hit a residential area in Aspen’s West End in the area around Smuggler, Fifth and Sixth streets, turning over garbage containers and trash dumpsters in an alley. A few people were cited for having improper or unlatched trash containers, receiving written warnings from Dan Glidden, the Aspen Police Department’s bear specialist.

“I wrote three warning tickets on Wednesday and one on Thursday,” Glidden said. He typically issues a warning for the first offense, but after that the fines go up to $250, $500 and $999 respectively. The latter fine also includes a court appearance.

With springtime hitting its stride and bears coming out of hibernation, Glidden said local residents should take precautions to keep the bears from becoming bad news. This includes purchasing bear-proof waste containers and using them properly, making sure they are locked and secure at all times.

He also cautioned against leaving food scraps or grease in outdoor barbecue grills or seed in bird-feeders.

Some bears are looking for food in town because the berries and other vegetation they rely on have yet to appear. If an early frost should occur over the next few weeks, killing their food sources, that could mean another season of numerous bear problems similar to summer 2009, he said.

Bears are skittish of people and really don’t want to come into town, Glidden said. Being nocturnal creatures, they tend to come down from the mountains at night, between midnight and 5 a.m.

He suggested various measures for warding away bears from homes:

• Spraying small amounts of ammonia or bleach around trash containers or patio doors.

• Motion detectors that turn on lights or water sprinklers.

• Boards with nails – not screws – sticking out of them, strategically placed near doors or waste containers. Screws have a greater chance of breaking off, remaining inside the bear and making them angry. Being pricked by nails will usually just startle the bear and cause him to leave.

Glidden, a retired Aspen police officer, works part-time for the community safety division, but other officers also deal with bear issues, he said.

In recent years, the city of Aspen has adopted various measures to urge residents to take precautions that alleviate bear problems, Glidden said. This includes an ordinance mandating bear-proof waste containers and the fee structure.

“We’re not trying to punish people, we’re just trying to help people comply with the rules,” he said of the enforcement measures and fines.

His advice for anyone who encounters a bear: Don’t stare, don’t panic and slowly back away. If a bear starts coming toward an individual, it’s usually a “bluff” and the bear will stop short before making contact, Glidden said.

Anyone with questions about how to deal with bears may call Glidden’s “bear hotline” at 429-1768. For emergency situations, call police at 920-5400 or dial 911.

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