Officials: People, bears will die
AVON – It’s sad when a bear dies, but it’s worse when a child dies, Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks said. And if the Eagle Valley doesn’t get a handle on its bear problems, someone is bound to get hurt or even killed, he said. As Brooks looked around the meeting room, he was greeted by nodding heads. “For some reason or other, people won’t stop feeding the bears,” said Bill Andree, a district wildlife manager for the Colorado Department of Wildlife. “We’ve been working on this since 1985, and we aren’t seeing a huge improvement.” With this in mind, Avon convened its first Bear Summit last week. Representatives from the town, Gypsum, Vail, Eagle County and the Colorado Department of Wildlife, along with trash haulers, retailers and rental property management companies, talked about how to keep trash away from bears. “Many of us are trying to do the same thing,” Brooks said. “We want to save the bears and the 5-year-old taking the trash out. Bears don’t know the boundaries, so it would be good if we all could maybe even get the same legislation.”Testing the mettleUnfortunately, every possible trash solution comes with its own set of problems.In the world of trash containers, there’s bear-proof and then there’s bear-resistant, and the only thing that’s totally bear-proof is metal. But metal is heavy, cumbersome and even dangerous, some said.”We don’t want to pick them up – it’s not an option,” said Matt Donovan with trash hauler Vail Honeywagon, who estimated a metal trash container can weigh about 200 pounds. “Those lids can take off a finger – it’s bad on our drivers,” he said. “They’re heavy, and they hurt the truck. They tear up our equipment. I wouldn’t want them. I think there’s other alternatives that would work.”Nick Antuna, who manages Sunridge Phase II apartments in Avon, agreed heavy metal lids are dangerous for the women and children he sees taking out the garbage. Many of them aren’t able to reach or lift the heavy metal lids and end up leaving trash bags next to the trash container, worsening the problem. Sliding solutionsA container with a sliding side door and latch could be the answer, if only people would take the time to latch it. “No one will latch it,” said Gerry Flynn with Polar Star Properties, which manages complexes like Eaglebend Apartments and Kayak Crossing. “You can only expect so much from these residents. It needs to be simple and fool-proof.”Nancy Bruen with Polar Star Properties said security cameras may be installed at Eaglebend to catch and fine residents who are careless with trash. Eaglebend policies state tenants can be fined twice at $50 and $100 before they are evicted.The no-nonsense policy appealed to Brooks, who said, “The extent to which people don’t really like it doesn’t concern me. [Bears] are a more serious problem for me than someone’s convenience.”Trash compactors are easy to operate, and they keep the bears out, but they break down frequently, Flynn said. Others cautioned against making contraptions too complicated. “If the bear can’t get in it, then people can’t either,” said Jerry Valasquez, site manager for Waste Management, a trash hauler. Andree suggested having a self-closing container, while Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said the entire community may have to shift from home trash pickup to bringing trash to a central location, and that’s not likely to be a popular idea.Where to put the trash? In Vail, trash cans can only be outside from dawn to dusk, as opposed to a midnight deadline for getting trash cans back inside in Avon. And both towns recently waived a preliminary warning for trash-can offenses, allowing police to issue a fine after a first offense. “It’s really improved things,” Henninger said. But keeping trash indoors isn’t bear-proof, either, Andree said. “It’s giving people a false sense of security,” Andree said. He knows of a bear that pulled garage doors off their tracks to get at the garbage inside. And even if one town is being responsible about trash, adjoining homeowners on unincorporated county land may not be. “There’s a smorgasbord of trash,” Henninger said, adding that Vail police occasionally dole out warnings to nearby offenders on county land. “We would love the county to jump on board.” Eagle County’s Allison Ochs said the county is working on bear laws that may affect just bear-prone parts of the county because some parts of the county, like the Bond and Singletree areas, don’t have bear problems. The answer shouldn’t be this hard When you get right down to it, the Eagle Valley isn’t the first to deal with bear problems. If other communities have figured it out, Eagle County and its towns should be able to as well, Henninger said. At the end of the day, a better way of dealing with bears will have to be developed, even though nobody knows yet what that method will be, attendees agreed. “I want to be a model of how to deal with this,” Brooks said. “I want this to be a front-burner issue for everybody. We all know how sad it is to put down a bear. I don’t even want to think about the consequences of a child.”
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