Less bear trouble likely this year
“It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly leave or store any garbage, refuse, trash, recyclable, food product, pet food, grain, salt, (etc.) in a manner which may attract or entice animals or wildlife.”
After a summer and fall of 2014 when bears were too-frequent visitors to area towns — prompting Glenwood Springs and Carbondale to set new garbage rules — this year should be better, thanks to the weather and the new laws.
This year’s cherry, serviceberry and acorn crops are “looking really good,” said Perry Will, Glenwood Springs area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, so bears should have plenty to eat without wandering into town as much.
We’ll find out soon, with bears late this month entering their hyperphagia stage, when they consume more than 20,000 calories a day to prepare for hibernation. Will said bears are focused on only one thing during hyperphagia: food.
“They try to put on all these calories and store fat,” Will said. “All they know is to eat.”
He noted bears are opportunistic and will eat anything in sight. He said if a bear is able to eat from someone’s trash can, it will be back.
Glenwood Springs Chief of Police Terry Wilson said the city’s new ordinance requiring residents and businesses to secure their trash from animals appears to have lessened bear activity so far this year.
Wilson said 50 first-offense tickets, carrying a $50 fine, have been issued since May. Wilson said one second-offense ticket of $500 was issued this year.
“Oddly enough, we haven’t had a trash complaint from that place since,” Wilson said.
Under the ordinance, if an offender is ticketed a second time, the fine can be waived if the offender gets an animal-proof container. Wilson said the two-time offender got the special container right away, so the fee was waived.
Despite the ordinance, Margaret Ware, a Glenwood resident and owner of a clinic, noted overflowing trash bins on a recent Sunday in an alley near her workplace at 8th Street and Grand Avenue.
Ware noted a time when a garbage worker damaged her bear-proof trash can, and she was told she had to replace it for $360.
“How many people here are going to be able to pay $360 for a trash can?” she said.
Ware later was able to get the company to replace it at no cost to her. She said bear-proof cans are expensive, but people should be more responsible with their trash and not let it spill over where it’s easily accessible for animals.
“It’s all about what we can do to save these bears while we can,” Ware said.
She noted that some trash cans in Two Rivers Park aren’t bear-proof and doesn’t like it because it’s dangerous to bears.
“What do you think they’re going to do?” Ware said of bears.
“Wildlife here is one of our greatest resources,” she said.
Bears are on a two-strike policy in Colorado. Will said when a bear has interaction with people, it’s tagged in both ears and relocated. If another disturbance is made with that bear, it has to be put down.
If a bear injures a person, Will said it is immediately put down.
“Not every bear gets a second chance,” he said.
However, not every instance means a bear will be put down. If someone calls of a bear getting into garbage, Will said he tries to educate the resident on how to properly store and take care of garbage.
“We want to trap them as a last resort,” Will said of bears.
Ultimately, though, Will said if people don’t take care of their garbage, “the bear pays the ultimate price.”
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Fall officially begins Wednesday with the autumnal equinox, but for Glenwood Springs gardeners, the season kicked off early as the area’s first freeze set in Monday night.