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Bears spending much less time inside

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyThe town of Vail instituted a tough new rule last year that requires bear-proof trash cans, such as these ones at the Pitkin Creek complex. But Pitkin Creek and other complexes are leaving the bear container open during the day.
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VAIL ” There are plenty of bear problems around the High Country this year. In Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs ” and even at drilling camps around Parachute ” bears are trying to get people’s food.

Six bears have been killed this week alone in the area because of encounters with people.

A 425-pound bear was euthanized on Wednesday in Carbondale after busting through windows in a house, and another bear, which had broke into a preschool in Aspen, was killed Friday.

But in Vail, things are noticeably quiet, said Randy Hampton of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

There have been no bear break-ins and no traps set for bears this year, Hampton said. There had been dozens of bear break-ins by this time last year, he said.

“To say that is really incredible when you consider that most of the rest of western Colorado, they probably are ten-fold from what they were last year. So it’s pretty big statement,” Hampton said.

This summer, bears are more likely to seek people’s food because of dry weather that has shrunk natural food stores, such as berries and fruits, Hampton said.

There was a lot of bear activity last year in Vail, when two bears were euthanized and several more were captured.

Last fall, Vail passed a strict new law that required “bear resistant” trash cans for homeowners as well as “bear proof” trash cans or “bear resistant” enclosures for condo complexes. The law came fully into effect on Wednesday.

No bear killings or captures in Vail this year may be proof that the laws are working, Hampton said.

Still, the number of bear calls to the police in Vail are about the same as what they were last year, said Detective Ryan Millbern.

So far this year, the Vail police have issued 42 tickets and 320 warnings for violating Vail’s bear ordinance.

Compliance with the new laws has been good, Milbern said.

Wildlife-resistant cans line residential streets on pickup day in Vail’s neighborhoods, and there are many bear-proof cans ” even if a couple of them were propped open this week.

Bear-proof cans at Vail Conoco in West Vail and the Pitkin Creek condo complex were held open ” with a pulley and a piece of metal, respectively.

“It defeats the purpose of the bear-proof container,” Hampton said.

Andy Berger, president of the Pitkin Creek homeowners association board, declined comment for this article.

Last month, Vail Councilman Farrow Hitt was cited after he kept open his bear-proof trash bin with a rope. The bin’s heavy doors were too dangerous, he said.

He was disappointed with his trash company’s cooperation in finding a safer bin. He later bought a rope and pulley system for about $10 that allows people to easily open it, he said.

“It’s worked for us,” he said. “It was a simple solution that we came up with.”

“Bear-proof enclosures” could be the safe answer instead of the heavy bear-proof bins, Hitt said.

“Due to lack of willingness of companies to come up with safe unit that’s more user-friendly, I think the answer will be the ‘bear-proof enclosure,'” he said.

The true test of the law’s effectiveness will come in a couple of years, Millbern said.

If the number of bear calls to the police has dropped by then, that will be a measure of success, he said.

“I absolutely do expect a drop in numbers, but not for a good amount of time,” Millbern said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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