Do we need more protection from bears? |

Do we need more protection from bears?

Alison Miller
Vail CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” As the weather begins to warm, the county commissioners want to protect residents from rummaging bears on the hunt for food.

The commissioners are considering adopting a law that would ban feeding wildlife and also require residents living in unincorporated Eagle County to buy bear-resistant trash cans. The board put off a vote on the issue on Tuesday until the board can get more input from the Department of Wildlife, residents and businesses affected by the move.

Requiring all residents to have a bear-resistant container whether they have had a bear problem or not is overly restrictive and a financial burden for the trash haulers around the county, said Matt Donovan, owner of Vail Honeywagon.

“The containers will slow our routes and they are expensive,” Donovan said. “They cost about $200 and there’s only one company that makes them so the prices could go up. Unfortunately we have to pass that cost to our customers, too.”

Employees of Vail Honeywagon will have to take off their gloves and unlock the containers before they can be unloaded into the truck, slowing down route times, Donovan said.

County Commissioner Peter Runyon said he was concerned about the price and extra time it will take to collect trash, but he added it is not a good enough argument to not pass a law to protect Eagle County residents.

“The auto makers said for years that seat belts weren’t needed and that people who are thrown from the car when it crashes survive sometimes, but now seat belts are widely embraced and accepted,” Runyon said.

It is all part of the price you pay to live in a mountain community, he said.

“The reality is that we live in bear country and this is the cost of living here,” Runyon said. “There is a cost to the bears, too, when they are caught in these neighborhoods.”

Bears that are found in residential areas are tagged and taken to a different location, said Brian Wodrich from the Department of Wildlife. If they are spotted in residential areas again, they are killed, he said.

But people who feed bears are more to blame, not the trash cans, Donovan said.

“How about signs that say fines doubled for feeding, like the ones (that say) fines doubled for speeding?” Donovan asked.

In addition to requiring bear-resistant trash cans, the commissioners are proposing strict fines for people caught feeding wildlife.

Feeding the bears and leaving the trash out for them encourage bears to keep coming back for more, Wodrich said.

“If someone is feeding a bear, they should be treated in the same manner as the bear,” County Commissioner Sara Fisher said jokingly.

The commissioners will meet with Donovan, the Department of Wildlife and any resident who wants to weigh in on the law before bringing it back to a vote again.

Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or

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