Trouble’s a bruin |

Trouble’s a bruin

Chad Abraham
Tim Kurnos photo

Wake up, Aspenites, because the bears have.That’s the message from a state wildlife officer who is reminding residents and businesses to bear-proof their trash bins.The problems range from the east side of town, where a bear broke into a man’s vehicle recently, to the West End, where one tipped over a trash bin and spread refuse about a street Wednesday morning.Compliance with Aspen’s wildlife municipal code, which calls for bear-proof bins, so far has been “pretty bad,” said Kevin Wright, area wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.With black bears out in force, he has notified the city of Aspen of trouble spots around town several times already this year. The city’s parking department is responsible for enforcing the wildlife ordinance.”I’m hearing reports from all over the place of noncompliance, [and] I am pressing the town to start enforcement of the ordinance,” he said. “We need to get that done, and the citizens of Aspen should know by now that they need to be in compliance.

“People need to be very much aware [that] we have a lot of bear activity going on right now.”He called for residents to obey the law by properly storing food and trash, be it an alley bin or the Doritos under the dashboard.”I can’t emphasize enough for people to lock their car doors, have their windows rolled up tightly right now,” he said.People should treat home windows and doors in a similar manner, even before quick trips out of the house. Businesses and residents alike can receive a ticket for noncompliance with Aspen’s wildlife ordinance.Wright said “polycans,” 90-gallon plastic garbage bins, are no longer legal in Aspen or Pitkin County if they are stored outside.People tend to forget about bear-proofing “until they have a bear, and then it’s going to be too late because the bear learns that that house or that car is food,” he said. “And they’re going to keep after it.”Last year, bears found delectable trash in neighborhoods at the base of Smuggler and Aspen mountains, Wright said. Compliance at condominium and apartment complexes has also been problematic.

“People need to start locking their Dumpsters,” he said. “If their Dumpsters have been broken over the winter, they need to get them fixed, and they need to get them fixed now.”Bears get two strikes once they become “conflict” animals. Wildlife officials trap and relocate them first. If they come into conflict with humans a second time, the animals are killed. Wright encouraged people with questions to call him at 947-2920 and said he will inspect homes and offer bear-proofing advice.”If we can take care of our trash problem, we can learn how to coexist with these guys,” he said.Conditions last spring and summer provided a boon to the berries, acorns and other plant life that make up bears’ natural food sources. As a result, bear-human conflicts in Pitkin County dropped drastically compared with prior years. It’s too soon to tell how those sources will fare this year because a late frost is still possible, Wright said.

Leaving trash around homes, businesses and campsites. That includes trash set out the night before pickup. Feeding pets outdoors and storing pet food outside. Hummingbird feeders filled with sweet liquid. Greasy barbecue grills.-Source: Colorado Division of WildlifeChad Abraham’s e-mail address is

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