Putting the lid on bear problems
VAIL ” Vail resident Sally Jackle blames herself for the bears that have been killed this year in Vail. She wasn’t vocal enough when the town passed “wimpy” laws in the past, she said.
“I’ve known for years we’ve needed a stronger version,” she said.
Now, she is voicing her support for a proposed law that would require all trash cans in town to be either bear-resistant or bear-proof. That will mean most people would have to buy new trash cans that cost at least $150 and as much as $500.
The debate follows the capture of four bears in Vail this summer. Two have been euthanized.
Last month, the council passed an emergency ordinance that ended warnings for first-time offenders of the trash rules. Now, first offenders can be fined.
The Town Council will consider two proposals at its Tuesday meeting. The stricter law requires all Vail residents have at least “bear-resistant” cans. For trash cans that are outside all the time ” like in Dumpsters at multi-family complexes ” the container would have to be bear-proof.
The less-strict version of the ordinance wouldn’t require new cans for trash that’s brought inside when it’s not on the curb.
Jackle said she wants to see everyone required to have at least bear-resistant containers.
“At the Town Council meeting, people said we should take a measured approached,” Jackle said. “In my opinion, we have taken a measured approach. That’s why we have two dead bears this year.”
The extra cost is justified to protect the bears, she said.
Former Mayor Bob Armour was one person who advocated a measured approach. He said last month’s emergency ordinance was a good step. But now the town needs to wait and see how well that addresses the problem, he said.
“I think it’s premature to have everyone go out and buy $150 trash cans to replace their perfectly good trash cans,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve given the emergency ordinance time to see if it’s effective.”
Armour called for education and enforcement of the “dawn to dusk” rule. That law says trash can only be left on the curb from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on pickup day. The town also needs to go after open trash containers, Armour said.
Bill Andree, district wildlife manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said the town needs to do something to address its bear problem.
“If they don’t, the bears will continue, and bears will continue to be killed because of it,” he said.
Bears can easily get into wooden enclosures, Andree said.
“A bear can chew through an 8-inch aspen log in 20 mintues if it wants to,” he said, and many enclosures are made of thin plywood.
Vail’s bear problem has gotten much worse in May and June, whereas in previous years bears activity has been more limited to late summer, he said.
He didn’t want to make recommendations on what path the town should make, saying he wanted to leave it up to the town.
Byron Harrington, operations manager for Vail Honeywagon, said many people in Vail already have bear-resistant cans. An increasing number of people are requesting them, he said, especially after publicity about captured bears in Vail.
“Every day we’re getting orders for them,” he said.
Some communities already require the special cans. Beaver Creek requires bear-proof trash cans. Pitkin County requires bear-resistant containers. Snowmass Village requires bear-resistant containers between April 15 and Nov. 15.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.