County adopts tougher bear ordinance |

County adopts tougher bear ordinance

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado
Photo by Matt Price

PITKIN COUNTY Letting a bear into your garbage in Pitkin County just got more expensive.Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved an emergency wildlife ordinance empowering law-enforcement officials to issue tickets with first-time fines of $350 to residents who don’t secure their trash in proper bear-proof containers.In a year when their natural-food supplies are exhausted, bears are getting hooked on human food and when they break into homes or get aggressive, Division of Wildlife officials are forced to euthanize the animals. So far, seven bruins in the Aspen area have been put down. The new ordinance empowers area officials such as ReRe Baker, Pitkin County’s animal-control officer, to issue tickets to owners of non-compliant Dumpsters.”It’s about time,” Baker said.

The former complaint-driven ordinance didn’t have enough teeth, Baker said. The new ordinance, however, gives officers the ability to make a difference among homeowners, she said.”Now they have to pay because it’s a petty offense,” Baker said.A first offense of the new wildlife ordinance, which went into effect immediately after the vote Wednesday, will cost $350, but the money can be applied to the cost of a new Dumpster within 10 days of the charge, Baker said.The second offense costs $500 and a third citation comes with a penalty of $1,000.”I’m encouraged,” said Aspen District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright, who has been charged with the task of euthanizing problem bears in the area.

Said Commissioner Jack Hatfield: “Human action – or inaction – is the problem.”Hatfield praised a provision in the ordinance that allows officials to mandate a bear-proof enclosure for garbage in areas of clustered homes, such as smaller subdivisions, trailer parks and condominiums.”I believe we just all really need to pull together on this,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards, urging interagency cooperation and efforts from homeowners to tighten up their trash.

ASPEN The cost of fines for city of Aspen residents who leave their garbage cans and Dumpsters unsecured just went up.Aspen Municipal Court Judge Brooke Peterson on Wednesday raised the standard fines for wildlife violations. The new fines will be $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense. A third offense will land the violator in court, with the potential of a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. Before the change, the fines were $50 for the first offense and $250 for the second. Charles Agar’s e-mail address is