Bears making a mess in Eagle, Gypsum | VailDaily.com

Bears making a mess in Eagle, Gypsum

Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – It’s been about a decade since there were this many bears in Eagle and Gypsum, and there’s plenty of trash on the ground because of them.

Upper-valley towns and Eagle County have for several years had regulations about the way residents can store their trash; towns in the western part of the county haven’t yet imposed their own rules. There’s been no need.

This year’s been different.

Eagle Police Chief Rodger McLaughlin said his department has responded to 33 calls about bears in town since mid-June. And trash cans in both Eagle and Gypsum are regularly being ransacked by hungry bruins looking for food.

McLaughlin said in the old part of Eagle, where residents keep their trash cans in alleys, those areas can look like a five-block free-for-all if the bears have been around.

McLaughlin said the Eagle Town Board is ready to pass new trash regulations that would require residents to keep their trash indoors or in secure enclosures. If passed, that rule won’t take effect until next year.

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Meanwhile, both Eagle and Gypsum have been trying to encourage residents to keep their trash indoors as much as possible. Gypsum’s website even encourages residents to keep their potentially stinky trash in the freezer until collection day.

In a voicemail message, Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said the town is looking at what it could do to help keep bears out of town. But going to bear-resistant trash cans isn’t on that list, at least for now. Shroll said the cost to the town’s residents is simply too much for what seems to be a twice-a-decade problem.

When police are called about a bear, the first option is to just leave it alone – bears will usually just wander off. If a bear is a persistent visitor, officers will try to shoo the animal away from neighborhoods with lights, air horns or a non-lethal “scat!” – firing rubber pellets from a shotgun.

Bears usually respond to that kind of persuasion, at least temporarily, and that’s the way officers like it.

“No one wants to shoot a bear,” Eagle County Sheriff’s Sgt. Alex Iacovetto said.

While lower-valley towns aren’t used to dealing with the number of bears that have been around this summer, the animals are frequent visitors to Vail, Avon and Edwards. Even in those towns, there have been more bears than usual.

Avon Police Chief Bob Ticer said his officers have been “very busy” over the past couple of months.

“It seems like we’re just going from bear call to bear call,” Ticer said.

But, Ticer said, it seems like Avon’s bears are trying to find greener pastures – or trash cans that are easier to plunder. People in town seem to be doing a pretty good job of complying with the town’s regulations, he said.

Around the region, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said that department’s officers also are busier this year than last. That activity has led to nearly 30 bears being euthanized in a wildlife region that includes Vail, Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Yampa.

The state’s policy is to tag and relocate a problem bear. If a tagged bear is caught again, it’s euthanized. That isn’t the only way a bear may end up dead, though. Porras said bears that act aggressively can be put down even if they aren’t tagged.

But, as Iacovetto said, no one wants that. The good news is that there haven’t been any aggressive bear-human conflicts so far this year. Nor have there been any home invasions in the county so far.

Whether that lasts until bears settle in for the winter is anyone’s guess.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.