Vail avoids bear trouble seen elsewhere
December 28, 2007
VAIL ” Some western Colorado communities were besieged this year by hungry bears when a freeze and then drought wiped out berries and acorns ” but not Vail.
Vail officers didn’t field any reports of bears raiding garbage bins or breaking into houses. Down the road in Beaver Creek, four bears, including two cubs, were killed.
In Aspen, state wildlife officers killed 13 bears that threatened people or were repeat offenders.
Statewide, the Colorado Division of Wildlife killed a record 59 bears. The previous record was 55 bears in 2002.
Drought and development in bear habitat caused problems in other parts of the West, including Nevada and California.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife credits strict enforcement of an ordinance requiring bear-resistant trash containers and a partially viable berry crop for the lack of the problems in Vail.
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“The people in Vail definitely got the message that residents can do something to prevent problems with bears,” Wildlife Division spokesman Randy Hampton told The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction.
Hampton said the agency uses Vail as a positive example for other towns. He said Aspen and Pitkin County beefed up laws and enforcement in late summer.
Vail officials started strengthening their ordinances last spring to avoid the problems of the previous season: bears breaking into homes and officers being forced to euthanize two bears. Homes, including multifamily complexes, businesses and construction sites, are required to use wildlife- resistant containers or place cans in an approved enclosure.
The police department trains its officers in bear behavior. Officers shoot paintball-like pellets packed with pepper to chase away bears.
A community awareness campaign led to a “significant amount of voluntary compliance,” Police Chief Dwight Henninger said.
Stepped-up enforcement didn’t hurt, either. Through December, 432 warnings and 86 summonses were issued, Henninger said. In 2006, police issued 135 warnings and 40 summonses.
Some bears still wandered into neighborhoods, mostly at night, to look for food when fewer people were around, Henninger said.
The Division of Wildlife often tags and relocates bears that cause trouble, although officers will immediately kill one that attacks people or is especially aggressive. Bears caught a second time usually are killed.