A sign of spring: Vail’s first bear report | VailDaily.com

A sign of spring: Vail’s first bear report

Scott N. Miller
Daily Staff Writer

Robins are one sign of spring. Bears are another.

In yet another sign that winter is ending, Vail police recently received the first bear report of the season. The report came from a Rockledge Road resident, who spotted the small bear in the mountainside neighbor above Vail Village.

The first bear of the season in Vail is typical of the warm, earlier than normal spring that has descended across the Rockies. While there have been few reports from Colorado so far this year, bears have been emerging from winter hibernation as far north as Wyoming, said Todd Malmsbury of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The report from Vail – which came about a month earlier than usual – means it’s time for authorities to re-start their ongoing campaign to educate residents about the dangers of attracting bears and the need to comply with a town law intended to keep wildlife-human conflicts to a minimum.

That ordinance requires “dawn to dusk” trash control, which means it’s a violation of town code to leave trash out any time other than a scheduled collection day. Trash must also be kept in an animal resistant enclosure when cans aren’t set out for collection.

The town cut its bear complaints in half from 2002 to 2003, from 300 to 150. That drop was due to three factors, said Vail police officer Matt Lindvall.

First, he said, there was a lot of public cooperation from residents and businesses. Second, the police department put in a lot of hours to check homes, hand out warnings and, if needed, tickets. Finally, Lindvall said, nature cooperated with a reasonably moist summer that provided ample natural food for the animals.

“This year, the police department is going to work hard and we hope people will continue their efforts, but that third factor we don’t have any control over,” Lindvall said.

That makes keeping outdoor areas clear of food and trash even more critical. And the sooner people start, the better, he said.

Malmsbury said bears emerging from hibernation aren’t ravenously hungry right away and will generally try to browse on grasses and flowers at first. As they awaken from their months-long slumber, though, they do get more hungry and will return to places where they were able to find easy meals the previous fall.

If a bear stumbles across a free meal in the form of a bird feeder, an outdoor bowl of dog food or a can full of delectable trash, that animal will return to the scene of the free meal.

Siegmund Langegger, owner of the Tyrolean Restaurant in Vail, grew up in Vail. Because of that, he said, keeping a clean home and business is something he just grew up doing.

“We’ve had our dumpsters behind solid gates forever,” Langegger said. “We’ve never had bears come around.” The same is true at home, he said.

“That’s the key to keeping human-wildlife conflicts at a minimum,” Lindvall said. “People need to do a really good job of cleaning up. A bear will come back and check a site it’s had a meal at, sometimes more than once.”

While Vail’s wildlife ordinance is aimed mostly at bears, Lindvall said other animals seek free meals from humans, too. “We have red foxes here, and raccoons that get into trash, too,” Lindvall said.

But the biggest, and most potentially dangerous moochers are the bears. “We really need people to know they’re out, and they’re out early,” he said.

To learn more about the town’s wildlife ordinance or how to keep wildlife away from residences and businesses, call Lindvall, 479-2200.

Bear tips

To keep bears and other wildlife away from a home or business:

– Never store garbage or pet food outdoors near a home.

– Keep barbecue grills and outdoor tables covered and clean.

– Bring in bird feeders at night or out of reach of wildlife.

– Keep ground-floor windows closed.

If you encounter a bear:

– Don’t approach the animal.

– Remain calm.

– Leave the bear an escape route.

– Don’t run away or make any sudden movements.

Support Local Journalism