Aspen considers upping fines for people who violate bear ordinance
ASPEN Aspen officials plan to make it financially painful for people who ignore the city’s bear ordinance, which forbids unsecured trash containers.The current fine is $50 for violators. But City Council members will consider upping it to $250 for the first offense; the second offense would be a $1,000 fine and the third will land violators in municipal court, where jail time could be handed down.The bear problem in Aspen is so bad that it has become a public safety issue, and an emergency ordinance might be necessary in order to curtail people’s bad behavior, Mayor Mick Ireland said on Monday.”Apparently our $50 fine isn’t getting any response,” he said, adding bears are getting more aggressive and breaking into homes out of desperation for food. “We’ve made Aspen an attractive food source. … I don’t know what else to do because we have a life and safety issue.”City Attorney John Worcester said staff plans to meet this week about drafting a new bear ordinance. One addition would be to make it mandatory that every Dumpster in the city is identified with an owner so businesses and homeowners are held accountable, he added.The city ordinance could mirror what Pitkin County officials might vote on Wednesday. Pitkin County is considering a new ordinance that would allow animal safety officers and law enforcement officials to tag noncompliant trash bins and hand out a first offense fine of $350. A second offense would cost $500, and a third offense would be $1,000 the maximum allowable in the state, according to the ordinance.Fines in the county would fund wildlife protection education and provide assistance for Pitkin County residents who earn less than $20,000 a year and cannot afford costly bear-proof receptacles.City Councilman Jack Johnson said he thinks waste haulers also should be held accountable and should be included in whatever changes are made to the fine structure or new ordinance.Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss said he’s been able to stave off bears breaking into his home by putting lawn chairs in front of the window so he can hear the bruins before they attempt to enter. His household also is armed with an air horn in the event he must chase a bear away.DeVilbiss said he thinks the problem is largely generational, meaning the young bears are learning to eat off of humans and the sooner that can be curbed the better. But as winter draws nearer, the bears are looking for more caloric intake to hibernate.”We’re just getting to a point where these guys are really hungry,” DeVilbiss said. “It’s going to get ugly.”The issue and proposed changes will come back before the council when the public can weigh in.
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