Vail increases enforcement of wildlife and trash violations for bear season |

Vail increases enforcement of wildlife and trash violations for bear season

At the direction of Vail Town Council, the Vail Police Department’s Code Enforcement Division has implemented a new enforcement strategy for the 2021 bear season.

In past years, Code Enforcement focused on education as the principal tool to change the behaviors of offenders and gave many warnings before escalating enforcement to being cited into municipal court for a wildlife or trash violation. Going forward, Code Enforcement will issue only one warning to a residence where a violation is found before proceeding to municipal summons.

Although there has been an increase of bear sightings in residential areas of Vail (17 sightings from Jan. 1 to July 2, 2020, versus 37 sightings during the same time period in 2021), sightings in public areas have decreased (43 sightings from Jan. 1 to July 2, 2020, versus 27 sightings during the same time period in 2021). Overall, there has been little change in bear sightings in the area, and there is not yet a significant statistical increase of bear activity in Vail.

While more warnings were issued from Jan. 1 to July 2, 2020, versus the same time period in 2021, these were often issued to repeat offenders that are now correcting the behavior or being cited in municipal court.

Code Enforcement man hours dedicated to enforcement of the wildlife and trash ordinances have been increased to avoid repeat warnings and increase accountability from offenders.

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In addition to this change in enforcement strategy, the Vail Police Department worked alongside the town of Vail’s Environmental Sustainability department to update its wildlife warnings, which now contain a comprehensive list of all violations.

Bears will begin their pre-hibernation feeding frenzy, called hyperphagia, in coming weeks, during which bears will eat approximately 15,000 to 20,000 calories a day. From mid-August through late September or October, a bear feels the need to eat continuously for up to 24 hours a day.

Bears typically choose natural foods and avoid populated areas, but with recent wildland fires and a years-long drought pattern, native food sources have become scarce. This pushes bears to seek food in more populated areas where there is abundant availability of food from local refuse and recycling containers. Once this behavior takes hold, it becomes difficult to correct and increases the risk that the bear may have more interaction with humans, leading to its displacement.

Residents are asked to avoid using bird feeders and to be careful when disposing of food waste and other bear attractants in wildlife resistant residential refuse and recycling containers. It is also important to keep outdoor barbecues clean and to close and lock all doors to homes and vehicles. Large screen windows and doors are vulnerable points of entry to homes even when closed and locked.

The town’s Municipal Code Ordinance 5-9 regarding residential use of wildlife resistant or wildlife proof waste receptacles requires that all residential waste “be placed in a wildlife-resistant waste receptacle when not inside a residence and prohibits placing these receptacles out for collection before 6 a.m. on trash collection day.”

The waste receptacles must be removed from the collection area by 7 p.m. that evening. The same applies to recycling. If it is not possible to keep waste receptacles inside an enclosed structure throughout the week (i.e. a garage), fill the receptacle only on the morning of trash collection day.

For additional information on bears in Colorado, visit

For additional information on the town of Vail’s wildlife ordinance, visit and click on Town Code.

For additional information on the town of Vail’s wildlife ordinance enforcement, contact Code Enforcement Officer Maria Rodas at 970-479-2201, where you can also report any code violations to Code Enforcement, including those for wildlife, recycling and trash.

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