Sloppy trash habits lure bears to Basalt
July 11, 2012
BASALT – Basalt residents are being urged to heed a town law about securing garbage to prevent bears from ransacking it during a year when it looks like natural food supplies for bruins will be lacking.
Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor said there already have been several reports from residents about bears getting into trash containers. There haven’t been any reports about bears breaking into houses, but it’s clear they will find unsecured garbage. The solution is simple, O’Connor said.
“No food, no bears. They’re going to go somewhere else,” he said. “It’s mostly people issues – people aren’t securing their trash.”
The Basalt Town Council passed a wildlife protection ordinance in 2001 that requires an “approved wildlife-resistant refuse container” or a “wildlife-resistant Dumpster enclosure” with four walls and a roof that make it inaccessible to wildlife. In addition, individual homeowners are required to put out their trash on the day pickup is scheduled by their garbage hauler.
Basalt’s problems with bear-human conflicts have been spotty and not as pronounced as Aspen’s issues over the past 15 years, so compliance might be lax. O’Connor said his department needs residents to be more vigilant.
“The community-service folks and us can’t be everywhere,” he said.
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Bear sightings have been reported at the Columbine condominiums, Southside and along the Basalt-Old Snowmass Trail at Holland Hills. O’Connor said it appears there are five bears in town – a mom with two cubs and two young, individual bears. He wants to make sure people secure their garbage so the animals don’t get labeled as nuisance bears by wildlife officers. Colorado has a “three-strike policy.” Bears that get tagged for conflicts with humans are killed after a third incident.
“Nobody wants bears to be getting killed, especially me,” O’Connor said.
Sloppy trash storage at the Columbines this summer has attracted a juvenile bear. Resident Cameron Burns said Tuesday that garbage had been strewn outside a trash-bin enclosure the past two mornings.
“This bear seemed particularly aggressive,” Burns said. “It sounded like someone was throwing bottles into the Dumpster Monday night.”
Cyndy Love, another resident of the Columbines, said the problem is some inconsiderate people throw their garbage bags onto rather than inside the trash bin. The bear visiting at approximately 3 a.m. Monday was able to reach inside the wood fencing and grab the garbage bags. Love cleaned up the mess after the bear left so it wouldn’t be attracted back.
The garbage isn’t a problem when properly disposed of, she said.
“Right now, they have to go through a lot of effort to get at the Dumpster,” Love said.
She wants people to make just a little more effort to make sure bears don’t have opportunities to get at trash.
Mike Porras, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the agency is getting reports of “significant bear activity” throughout Pitkin County and northwest Colorado.
“The dry conditions so far have likely reduced the amount of natural food available to bears, and many of them are looking for other food sources, including trash, kitchen refrigerators and pantries, vehicles, etc.,” Porras wrote in an email. “We continue to warn people to secure their trash, follow local ordinances and make bears feel unwelcome.”