Students bear down on bear problem
As the bears of Glenwood Springs sleep through the winter, some young human allies are working to make the animals’ lives safer come spring.Fourth-graders in the gifted program at Glenwood Springs Elementary School are seeking ways to ease the city’s conflicts with bears, including possibly through an ordinance requiring bearproof trash containers.They are scheduled to discuss the issue with Glenwood Springs City Council members tonight.Students began focusing on the issue this fall after attending a Windstar Foundation presentation in Old Snowmass. A presenter from the Jane Goodall Institute talked about its Roots & Shoots program, which seeks to make communities better through projects centered on animals and the environment.”We brainstormed with the kids and said bears kind of cover everything,” said Barb Brown, the students’ teacher.Student Isaac Carlson said the idea came to the students in part due to newspaper coverage last summer about people’s encounters with bears in town.Carlson and his fellow students have had plenty of encounters of their own. A mother and two cubs spent time in a tree outside their school, and several of the students have had bears at their homes.A group of students answered with a unanimous “no!” when asked if they feared for their safety around the bears. Rather, they are worried about the bears, which face the possibility of being put down under the state Division of Wildlife’s two-strike policy if they repeatedly cause problems.The students think humans are part of the problem, leaving out trash, hummingbird feeders, barbecue grills and other food sources that attract bears.”If they start learning to come into town and take stuff, they’re going to keep coming,” said Carder Ullom.The students believe education is part of the answer. Cullen Beckler said some people understand their role in the bear problem more than others do.”Some people just kind of don’t really get it. We have some people say they were here before the bears, which is not true,” he said.The class has been working with Sonia Marzec, district wildlife manager in Glenwood Springs, to see what can be done to address the bear problem. One approach the students are taking is to send home surveys to parents of students at Glenwood and Sopris elementary schools. The survey will give the city and the DOW some sense of the community’s feelings about the extent of the bear problem, whether they contribute to it, and whether they would support an ordinance requiring bearproof trash containers.Some kids are even working on designing bearproof containers of their own.Carlson said students won’t be recommending specific actions to City Council tonight.”We have a few suggestions but we haven’t decided on one we want to suggest yet,” he said.Nate Kaup said one suggestion might be to require that people put out trash the same day it is picked up, which gives bears less time to get into it.In a memo to City Council, city manager Jeff Hecksel said the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has determined it would cost about $38,000 to replace the city’s 74 trash containers with bearproof ones.Beckler’s mom, Kacey, said that when their family bought a bearproof container it succeeded in keeping bears at bay.”They rolled it down the alley but they could never get it open,” she said.Cullen Beckler said one of the bears “got pretty mad about that.”Hecksel reported that city police “documented 147 bear-related calls from mid-April through mid-November in 2004.””This number is believed to be a little low. Due to recurring incidents, officers may not document the same bear in the same area being called in by a new person,” Hecksel wrote.Up to now, police and the Division of Wildlife have worked to resolve conflicts in a low-key manner, trying to avoid relocating bears or seeking passage of bear ordinances. Last fall, however, the DOW relocated a bear and her cub after complaints from a resident and reports of an attack on a dog.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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