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Stronger punishment for attracting bears

Brooke Bates

VAIL – Responding to the high traffic of bears digging through Vail’s trash this year, the Town Council passed a law last night to stiffen punishment for improper trash storage.Under this zero tolerance ordinance, residents who create feeding opportunities for wildlife-like by setting trash out early-no longer receive a warning before punishment.

This amends the Wildlife Protection Ordinance passed in August 2002, which graced violators with a warning first. The new law also abolishes graduated punishment. Formerly, a second offense drew a fine from $100 to $250 and following violations, up to $999. A first offense can now draw maximum penalties of up to $999 in fines and up to 180 days in jail. Aware that a new law, especially one that may require citizens to purchase certain trash containers, will take time to enforce, Council Secretary Matt Mire said this ordinance will allow the town to enforce current regulations more effectively while the details are worked out.

As an emergency ordinance, the new law is effective immediately. The only change from the old ordinance is the strength of punishment meted out for violations. Last week, the council discussed requiring bear-resistant containers at collection centers, such as those at condos and construction sites. An even steeper provision would require all citizens to maintain bear-resistant containers.Details of the amendment, such as whether bear-proof or wildlife-resistant containers will be required, will be discussed at several public hearings, beginning at the work session on August 2. “We started with a soft approach, but the warning system isn’t working,” Councilman Farrow Hitt said. “People are still putting their trash cans out at 10:00 the night before pickup. Police will start enforcing this and they will be writing tickets.” After losing two bears in the last three weeks, the Town Council unanimously approved the emergency ordinance.”Since the last council didn’t strengthen the laws, this council can’t move fast enough,” Councilman Mark Gordon said. “If something happens, we want to be able to say we, as a town, did everything we could to avoid it.”Brooke Bates can be reached at vdeditintern@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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