Glenwood trash tickets up as bears begin to stir |

Glenwood trash tickets up as bears begin to stir

This black bear was seen wandering around Glenwood Springs Elementary School early Saturday. Residents of the area noticed the bear digging through trash and roaming the alleys and contacted authorities. Mike Porras
Leighton Butler |

Glenwood Springs police are on the prowl for trash ordinance offenders — who Chief Terry Wilson says are “practically inviting bears to snack at their residences.”

Monday night a couple of Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and the city’s code enforcement officer did some investigating around town to get a handle on the scale of the problem, Wilson told the Post Independent on Tuesday. In that time they spotted three different bears in the city, and in just about every neighborhood they found signs that bears have been active.

After a bad summer for bear encounters in 2014, the city passed an ordinance setting fines for unsecured trash at $50 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense. If a person is cited a third time, it means a court summons that could result in a fine up to $1,000.

Last May, the first spring that ordinance was in effect, police issued 23 tickets, followed by seven in June and 14 in July, then tapering off to only nine for the rest of the year.

Unless bears are exhibiting dangerous behavior CPW and the police take the perspective that “we’re in their backyard, not vice versa,” said Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson.

Most offenders got the message after their first ticket last year, but Wilson said officers did issue one $500 ticket for a second offense.

Depending upon the situation at the building or residence, the ticket might go to the resident, tenant, property manager or owner — whoever is responsible for the garbage, said Wilson.

Bears become most active in their search for food right before hibernation, so the lower numbers last fall seemed encouraging, said the chief. But this spring the department has already issued seven tickets in the later part of April and 16 so far in May.

Perry Will, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said this is about the right time for newly awakened bears to be seeking food. Additionally, the springtime makes relocating bears that have encounters with people more difficult because the high country is harder to access, he said.

Officers are getting a sense of some of the bears’ patterns — like one that’s taken to bathing in the Roaring Fork River between Cardiff and Sunlight bridges in the mornings.

A common misconception is that CPW or the police must relocate any bear that’s reported, said Wilson. In reality the police department “tries to work hand-in-glove with CPW,” which doesn’t relocate a bear unless it exhibits dangerous behavior, he said.

Unless they’re exhibiting dangerous behavior CPW and the police take the perspective that “we’re in their backyard, not vice versa.”

Colorado has a two strikes policy with bears. The first time they have a potentially dangerous encounter with humans, they are tranquilized, tagged and relocated. The second time, they are put to death based on concerns that they have lost their fear of people and acquired a taste for human food or garbage.

If a resident leaves their trash unsecured outside and a bear gets into it, the Police Department will consider it more of a problem with the resident, not the bear, said Wilson.

But as more bears are drawn into town more frequently by easy access to food, they are desensitized to people, which can lead to bigger problems than trash being strewn about.

Recently a resident in south Glenwood Springs awoke to a racket coming from his garage, where he found that a bear had torn off a chunk of his garage door to get to the trash stored inside.

Those are the situations where a bear has become more aggressive and officers must step in, said the chief.

Another report came from Oasis Creek, where a man found a bear munching on his trash outside his home. The man was alarmed that the bear was not deterred after he shouted, clapped his hands and flashed a flashlight in an attempt to scare the bear away, said Wilson.

Over the weekend CPW also trapped and relocated a black bear that was rummaging through trash near Glenwood Springs Elementary School.

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