Not too many bears in Vail |

Not too many bears in Vail

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily file photoOver the last two years, Vail police have been enforcing new, strict trash laws that are meant to prevent bear problems.

VAIL, Colorado ” There has been a noticeable lack of bears in Vail, Colorado this past year, and Vail officials say that has a lot to do with the town’s wildlife protection program.

Vail had no bear euthanizations or break-ins since the new ordinance was passed, and bear calls are down more than 50 percent compared to last year.

Beaver Creek, on the other hand, has had more bear incidents, including several break-ins that resulted in bears being put down.

Vail Police Officer Ryan Millbern said he thinks that because Vail’s trash cans are more secure, bears have moved downvalley, where trash can be more easily found.

“Bears have just moved on,” he said. “They were eating the garbage like a buffet before. Now they don’t want to spend the calories to fight with the cans they know they won’t open.”

The Vail regulations, which went into effect at the end of 2006, require homes to have bear-resistant trash cans with latch lids and prohibits leaving trash out from dawn to dusk on trash pickup days.

The program also had more strict penalties for violations ” instead of just paying a fine, as before, people who weren’t in compliance have to appear in court.

The town also had an active public awareness campaign that included radio and television ads, e-mail and paper notices, and “Get a Nicer Can” bumper stickers on town vehicles.

Millbern said that 2007 was one of the worst years for bear/human encounters due to a failure of berry crops across the state. Berries are bears’ main food source, and many hungry bears ended up in trash cans instead.

In 2007, the Division of Wildlife euthanized 59 bears across the state, and there were record numbers of bear calls. However, none of the euthanizations were in Vail, and the town received a relatively lower number of calls.

This year, berry crops were normal, which helped keep bear encounters lower, but Vail Police said they feel the new ordinances were a big part of the success.

The program has been so well received that many other communities have shown interest in using Vail’s slogans, artwork and marketing materials and have asked advice on how to get similar ordinances passed.

Eagle County has also adopted to ordinances for the unincorporated areas of the county.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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