Will bigger fines stop bear invasion?
ASPEN ” Aspen officials plan to make it financially painful for people who ignore the city’s bear ordinance, which forbids unsecured trash containers.
The current fine is $50 for violators. But City Council members will consider upping it to $250 for the first offense; the second offense would be a $1,000 fine and the third will land violators in municipal court, where jail time could be handed down.
The bear problem in Aspen is so bad that it has become a public safety issue and an emergency ordinance might be necessary in order to curtail people’s bad behavior, Mayor Mick Ireland said on Monday.
“Apparently our $50 fine isn’t getting any response,” he said, adding bears are getting more aggressive and breaking into homes out of desperation for food.
“We’ve made Aspen an attractive food source … I don’t know what else to do because we have a life and safety issue,” he said.
One addition to the law could be to make it mandatory that every Dumpster in the city is identified with an owner so businesses and homeowners are held accountable, City Attorney John Worcester said.
City Councilman Jack Johnson said he thinks waste haulers also should be held accountable and should be included in whatever changes are made to the fine structure or new ordinance.
Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss said he’s been able to stave off bears breaking into his home by putting lawn chairs in front of the window so he can hear bears before they attempt to enter. His household also is armed with an air horn in the event he must chase a bear away.
DeVilbiss said young bears are learning to eat off of humans and the sooner that can be curbed the better. But as winter draws nearer, the bears are looking for more food to fatten up for hibernation.
“We’re just getting to a point where these guys are really hungry,” DeVilbiss said. “It’s going to get ugly.”