Pitco toughens trash laws | AspenTimes.com

Pitco toughens trash laws

Janet Urquhart

Pitkin County residents will have to trash their 90-gallon “poly cart” garbage containers on wheels for steel, bear-proof containers or bear-proof enclosures.The county issued the edict Wednesday, citing repeated failure of the reinforced poly carts, which are no longer keeping black bears at bay. The county will work with residents to accomplish the changeover, said Jonathan Lowsky, county wildlife biologist.Also Wednesday, the state Division of Wildlife tranquilized a sow and two cubs at Aspen Village and subsequently euthanized the sow. The cubs were taken to a wildlife rehabilitator with hopes that they can be released into the wild, said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.The sow had already been tagged as a problem bear; she was put down under the division’s two-strike policy.The DOW has set several traps in Aspen Village, a problem spot reportedly frequented by as many as 10 bears a day. The animals are showing little fear of humans, Lowsky said.One bear was apparently trapped Tuesday night, but was released by someone before division personnel arrived. It may have been the sow that was later tranquilized or another bear altogether, Hampton said. Letting the bear go could result in a felony charge, if wildlife officials identify the guilty party, he said.While the situation at Aspen Village has been the immediate focus for wildlife officials, the change in rules for garbage containers will affect residents throughout the unincorporated areas of the county.When county commissioners adopted a wildlife ordinance in 2001, establishing standards for trash containers, wildlife officials urged the county to mandate bear-proof containers. At the time, though, the bear-resistant poly carts were a less expensive option and commissioners weren’t anxious to force residents to pay some $600 for the locking, steel containers.Now, however, prices have dropped below $300 for the steel containers, according to Lowsky.”The prices have come way down because of a lot of people are supplying them now – it’s supply and demand,” he said.The ordinance allows the county to demand an upgrade in trash storage if a container is being repeatedly compromised.Lowsky compared the poly carts to “little picnic boxes” for bears.”A big bear sits on it and it caves in enough that he can pull out the trash,” he said.The fine for a first offense of the county ordinance is $350 – more than the cost of upgrading to steel – but Lowsky is anticipating resistance.”I expect some heat,” he said.Lowsky said he’ll be focusing enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas of the county first – Aspen Village, Mountain Valley, Red Mountain, Starwood, the Ardmore/McSkimming neighborhood and Phillips Trailer Park.”We are by no means going to expect immediate compliance. We’re going to work with people,” he said. “The only time we’re going to be hard-nosed is when people scoff at us and aren’t even willing to make an effort.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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