Glenwood bear troubles this year rival those in Aspen
Glenwood Springs area 2014 bear stats
Bear calls to Glenwood Police — 351
Estimated bear response cost to police — $11,000
Bear roadkills — 13
Transplanted bears — 11
Bears taken to wildlife rehabilitation center — 3
Euthanized bears — 3
Glenwood Springs has had one of its most troublesome bear years in recent memory, worse even than its notoriously bad neighbor to the southeast, according to the local game warden.
“Glenwood, in my opinion, has been worse than Aspen this year, and that’s generally not the case,” Dan Cacho, area wildlife officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, advised City Council last week in reference to the number of bears in town that had to be dealt with this summer and continuing into the fall.
The problem, as in Aspen and other mountain communities when natural food sources are scarce, is readily available human food sources such as hummingbird feeders, pet food left outside, unpicked fruit trees and, worst of all, improperly stored trash, Cacho said.
“Bears are smart, and if they come in contact with any easy food source they will come back again, and again, and again,” Cacho said.
When natural food such as acorns, serviceberries and chokecherries are abundant, as they were last year, bears stay where the food is and don’t come down into town, he said.
Following what was considered a bumper crop last summer, however, that natural source of food has been nearly nonexistent this season, he said.
“When that natural food crop is plentiful, we tend to have fewer bear problems,” Cacho said. “If that food source isn’t there, they know to come into town.”
Cacho said the bear population in Colorado in general, and the Roaring Fork and Eagle valley region in particular, is “admittedly high.”
According to Parks and Wildlife estimates, there are currently 0.6 bears per square mile in “marginal” habitat, and approximately 0.87 bears per square mile in prime habitat
The Roaring Fork/Eagle Valley region is home to an estimated 1,250 bears currently, and Colorado has between 16,000 and 18,000 bears statewide. That number is up from between 14,000-15,000 nine years ago, Cacho said.
The best deterrent to keeping bears out of town, he said, is for residents to control access to alternative food sources, which can lead to bigger problems as bears become more aggressive and try to break into houses and even threaten people.
Once that happens, wildlife officials have no choice but to put a bear down even if it doesn’t already have a strike against it under the agency’s “two strikes” policy for euthanizing bears that get caught in populated areas, Cacho said.
Before that step, wildlife officials will try hazing and trapping or tranquilizing bears to relocate them back to more wild areas, he said.
“This is something that needs attention in Glenwood Springs,” he said, recommending that the city revise its trash ordinance to eliminate the step of sending a warning for trash storage violations by certified letter before a ticket is issued.
To prevent attracting bears and other wildlife, the city requires that any trash left outside be kept in a certified bear/wildlife resistant container.
Otherwise, trash cans are to be kept in a secured structure such as a garage or shed until trash collection day. Trash cans are to be put out for pick-up no earlier than 6 a.m. on trash day, and must be brought back in by 8 p.m.
“The hang-up seems to be that certified letter step,” Cacho said, noting that no tickets for trash violations were issued by Glenwood Springs Police this year, and that anyone can refuse receipt of a certified letter.
Adding a provision in the ordinance that would allow police officers to use their own discretion in issuing an immediate ticket to a property owner, manager or tenant, even at $25 a pop, would go a long way to curb the problem, he said.
There is a cost to the city for dealing with bears that more fines could help to offset, Cacho also said.
Based on the 351 bear calls the Glenwood Police Department recorded so far this year, at an average of 45 minutes per call times two officers at an average of $21 per hour, that figure comes to more than $11,000, he said.
City Council agreed to discuss possibly amending the city’s trash ordinance at a future meeting.
“The only way to change the behavior of bears is to change the behavior of people,” Mayor Leo McKinney said. “I would personally support going to a stricter policy [on trash].”
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi concurred, but also urged state officials to go back to voters to repeal Amendment 10, the mid-1990s ballot measure that eliminated the spring bear hunt.
“That is one of the problems, and it’s a problem we created, not a problem the bears created,” Bershenyi said. “I would rather see the bear population controlled that way [as opposed to euthanizing problem bears].”
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