Vail bear calls on the decline | VailDaily.com

Vail bear calls on the decline

The number of bear warnings and tickets has been dropping for the past few years, from 320 in 2013 to 72 this year.

VAIL — There's plenty of wildlife spotted and reported, along and near Gore Creek, but only bears draw specific attention, for obvious toothy, clawed, muscular reasons.

Given the number of bears that live around town, Vail's wildlife ordinance requires residents to take care of their trash, including secure enclosures for trash for businesses, condos and apartments. It also requires people with rolling trash cans to leave them out only between dawn and dusk on their designated trash days.

The ordinance is intended to protect both humans and animals. A bear can make a big mess with household trash, and bears will return to easy sources of food. That's particularly dangerous for bears, since wildlife officers will trap and relocate a bear that's reported the first time it's caught in a trash can. The animal will be euthanized if it's caught a second time.

The good news is that the town's education efforts seem to be paying off — at least when it comes to humans.

The Vail Police Department recently sent out statistics detailing the number of calls about bears, warnings about violating the ordinance and the number of tickets issued.

The number of bear calls — people calling the town's dispatch center to report a bear in the neighborhood — varies from year to year. But the number of warnings and tickets has been dropping for the past few years, from 320 in 2013 to 72 this year. The town didn't issue any tickets in the first half of 2015. Officers haven't ticketed anyone yet this year, either.

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Sgt. Justin Dill of the Vail Police Department said people who get tickets generally earn them.

"We find that people we (ticket) are repeat offenders," Dill said, adding that those residents have almost always received multiple warnings.

Those warnings are most often put on residents' trash containers and secured with zip ties. You're going to notice that.

Getting people to notice warnings is the point of enforcement, Dill said.

"We're more about education," he said. "A (ticket) is for people blatantly not following the rules."

Dill said many of the warnings posted to trash containers are issued to people who have left town or have either rented or loaned their places to visitors, who are unlikely to know about the town's regulations.

"For commercial businesses, we've really gotten through to them that they're responsible for notifying residents and guests," Dill said.

When a warning is posted to a trash container, there's a lot of information to read. The warnings provide a copy of the town's regulations, as well as a detailed explanation of living in bear country.

While bears are the only animals targeted by ordinance, Dill said there have been more wildlife sightings in town the past couple of years, particularly moose. And, while an aggravated moose can ruin a human's day, it won't cause the kind of property damage that can be done by a hungry bear.

While the warnings have been dropping, Dill said bears will be out and browsing for another few months.

"We'll get more warnings… and we're still out there," he said.

Don’t do that

Here’s a look at the number of warnings issued to Vail residents who have violated the town’s wildlife ordinance since 2013:

2013: 320

2014: 200

2015: 122

2016: 72

Source: Vail Police Department