Vail steps up enforcement of the town’s wildlife ordinances
Vail officers issuing more tickets, fewer warnings for violations of its wildlife-protection ordinances
Vail since 2006 has had a “wildlife protection ordinance.” That ordinance is gaining some teeth.
Vail’s code enforcement officers are now writing more tickets for violations — leaving out trash containers and similar offenses that attract bears into neighborhoods.
Vail Town Councilmember Kim Langmaid at the Nov. 3 Vail Town Council meeting called stepped up enforcement welcome news.
“In the past, we have had a philosophy of customer service,” code enforcement officer Miguel Jauregui told the council. But, he said, favoring warnings became “500 warnings and one, two or five tickets” in a given bear season.
Juaregui told councilmembers the more-tickets policy has come in the past several weeks from Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger. The policy now is to issue citations after just one or two warnings.
Juaregui said that offenders in Vail neighborhoods are generally visitors who don’t always know about the town’s wildlife rules.
But bears don’t know that.
Communities have to help
News that Vail is writing more wildlife ordinance tickets was also good news to Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.
“It’s great,” Hampton said. “We support … communities being more proactive.”
A harder line on wildlife ordinance violators is partly due to more bear sightings.
From Jan. 1 — Nov. 6 of this year, the Vail police department has seen more than double the number of bear sightings from 2019 in residential areas: 146 versus 65. Sightings in public areas have nearly quadrupled from 2019 to 2020: from 22 to 84.
Those wildlife sightings have been consistent across the region. Hampton said wildfires, drought and more people working from home are probably behind the increase in reports.
That increase in reports hasn’t come with an attendant increase in relocations. So far this year only one bear has been relocated in the Eagle River Valley, a bear taken off the grounds of the Eagle County Regional Airport in the summer.
And, Hampton said, the number of bears that have been euthanized is about on par with previous years.
A grim, but modest toll
So far this year, four bears have been euthanized. Two of those cases were near Edwards, where a bear in October attacked a Singletree homeowner, and a bear that was killing livestock southwest of Edwards.
Another bear was put down by an Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy after it had been hit by a car on Interstate 70.
The fourth bear was put down after nearly two years of reports that the animal had gotten into trash and broken into cars around Vail’s Intermountain neighborhood.
Similar numbers of bears have been euthanized around Aspen, Breckenridge and Kremmling, Hampton said.
Overall, “it’s been a fairly typical year” for putting down bears, Hampton added.
Hampton added the good news for both bears and people is that despite the drought, chokecherry and serviceberry bushes in the area did mature in great enough volume to keep bears’ forage adequate outside of most towns.
Still, expect to see bears out and about until the snow comes in earnest and the animals settle in for their long winter naps.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.