New laws aim to separate trash from bears
BEAVER CREEK – If you’re looking for some warm fuzziness to temper the bad news from what has been a deadly season for bears in Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch, it may arrive later this month wrapped in government-speak and codified by the rap of a gavel.The Bachelor Gulch and Beaver Creek homeowners associations have passed a new ordinance mandating bear-proof trash containers in the areas where bears are common. One “problem bear” was killed by wildlife officers earlier this summer, a second was shot by a homeowner when he said it became aggressive, and a third was trapped and tagged for identification for possible destruction if it continues to become a problem.Three things have conspired to add to the numbers of “problem bears”: The lack of natural forage, courtesy of a late frost; intense development in bear habitat; and human nonchalance about garbage that has encouraged the bears to become dependent on trash.Aggravating the situation is the bears’ need to feed in the fall to fatten themselves for their five- to six-month hibernation. They can eat up to 20,000 calories a day from late August until they hibernate in late October or early November. That’s the equivalent of 70 Snickers bars a day.
But when the bears awaken in late April or early May, they may have to return to nature for their meals. A new law in Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch mandates the garbage bears have been depending be kept in armored, bear-proof containers.Still, there’s another issue that wildlife and security officials fear will take some time to resolve. Bears that have fattened themselves over the years on human garbage have learned to depend on that food source and have taught their young to do the same thing. It may take some time to convince them otherwise. The trash new ordinance will require humans to modify their behavior, too. If they don’t use bear proof containers they’ll face some hefty fines, said Jim Funk of Beaver Creek Security.Big bucks for bears
In Beaver Creek, the first offense will garner a warning and subsequent offenses will carry fines starting at $500 per occurrence and escalating up to $1,000. In Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead new, stiffer regulations carrying larger fines are in the works, said Bill Simmons, director of village operations for Beaver Creek, Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch.Some existing trash containers can be made bear-proof for about $95, Funk said”Most citizens, once they understand the rules, will follow them,” Funk said. “But there’s that small percentage who feel the rules don’t apply to them.”Prior to the ordinances being adopted, Funk said, the resort and waste-haulers have voluntarily installed bear-proof trash containers and are arranging for trash to be picked up twice a week to limit the opportunity for bears to feed.
“Open loading docks provide bears a 24-7 feeding point,” Funk said, adding that this year’s experience with bears was “unacceptable.”Because of the lack of forage this year there have been close bear-human encounters all over the High Country that have kept law enforcement and wildlife officials hopping. But to date, there have been no humans injured by bears in Eagle County.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or email@example.comVail, Colorado