Human trouble in bear country
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A failure by some humans to change their ways could lead to the deaths of some bears hanging around West Glenwood, a state wildlife official warned Wednesday.
Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said a mother and her three cubs are making a habit of feeding on trash that’s not properly secured by people. Another adult bear also has been feeding on garbage.
“Trash has gotten out of hand in West Glenwood. We’ve kind of reached a frustration level in terms of dealing with some of the issues up there. People are just not taking care of the trash and ultimately it’s going to mean bad things for bears,” Hampton said.
Under the DOW’s “two-strike” policy, if bears have to be relocated and then cause further problems, they must be put down.
The problem in West Glenwood has been going on for about two weeks and has been pretty widespread in areas outside city limits. Officials are worried that the bears may become emboldened and eventually pose a threat to humans.
Glenwood Springs has an ordinance governing how people must handle trash during bear season, such as not putting it out the night before pickup unless it’s in a bearproof container. Those living in unincorporated parts of Garfield County aren’t bound by such an ordinance.
“But that doesn’t take away their obligation to not be lazy and try to live with wildlife,” Hampton said.
He also noted that it’s against state law to feed big game, including bear. Technically, people who refused to deal with a garbage problem and continue to have bears raiding their trash would be violating the law, Hampton said.
He said he didn’t know if the DOW had issued any residents written warnings, but he wouldn’t be surprised if that started occurring.
Glewnood resident Dennis Bader became a DOW Bear Aware volunteer this year and has spent several evenings walking problem areas in West Glenwood, trying to convince people to deal with attractants such as trash. Some continue creating temptations for bears.
“There’s people that are just sloppy and there people that are just ignoring it and then there are people I believe are doing it purposely because they want to see the bears, which I think is a really bad situation,” he said.
Hampton said another problem has been that residents have failed to contact police or the Division of Wildlife the first time they have problems with bears. If a week goes by before the agency hears of a bear getting into trash, that makes it harder to work proactively to try to keep the problem from getting worse.
Hampton realizes that some people worry that alerting the DOW could result in a strike against a bear, but early intervention by the agency often can eliminate the need for relocating or putting down a bear.
He assured that DOW officers don’t like destroying bears.
“The worst part of the job is when the time comes that you realize that people have done the bear such a disservice that to protect people’s safety you’ve got to put down a bear,” he said.
Allan Bowles, who lives on Mitchell Creek Road in West Glenwood, said he saw what was probably about a 2-year-old bear by his barn a few days ago but it wasn’t causing any harm. While he said bears sometimes feed from his fruit trees, he’s careful not to put his trash out until the morning it is picked up.
“I’ve had no problems. I don’t have any outside trash, I don’t have any bird feeders or anything else” that attracts bears, he said.
Bader said a lot of people are conscientious when it comes to bears ” not just Anglos but Latinos, to whom Bear Aware volunteers have been handing out informational literature printed in Spanish.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people out there can be good and watch it and all it takes is three or four people (being careless) and you’ve got a real problem,” Bader said.
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The extended ski season at Snowmass Ski Area comes to a close April 25 after a bonus week of shredding that includes beer-sliding shenanigans, free parking and lots of still-skiable terrain.