City: Don't feed bears

Trash containers may be regulated

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Steamboat Springs residents soon could be required to use wildlife-resistant trash containers.

City Deputy Manager Wendy DuBord said the city has met with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Waste Management and law enforcement officials to look at how the city can better manage the increasing problem of bears and other animals getting into trash. From those meetings, staff developed an ordinance mandating the use of wildlife-resistant trash containers.

The proposed ordinance will go to the City Council on Nov. 16 for a first reading.

An ordinance adopted in 2001 requires wildlife-resistant trash containers for any garbage that is put out before 5 a.m. and left out after 6 p.m. on trash day. After pick-up, all containers must be returned to a building, house, garage or Dumpster enclosure.

"That really isn't solving the problem," DuBord said of the existing ordinance.

The city has received an increasing number of complaints about bears coming into residential neighborhoods, she said, as well as bears getting into commercial Dumpsters.

The proposed ordinance would require city residents who put out trash to have wildlife-resistant containers, regardless of when trash is taken out or where the residents live.

The wildlife-resistant containers, which DuBord said are not guaranteed to be bear-proof, could run between $100 and $200.

True Value Hardware sells DOW-approved animal-resistant containers. A 95-gallon container costs $197.50, and a 64-gallon container costs $179.50.

True Value Manager Kirk Wishon said the cans they sell have two locking pins and cables over the lid, so if a bear knocks the trash can over, it can't lift off the lid. The cans are made of a more durable plastic than the typical Rubbermaid trash can.

Jay Harris, site manager for Waste Management, said customers can purchase an animal-resistant trash can for $25 and pay $5 a month to have it serviced. The cost includes replacing the trash can if anything happens to it.

It would not cost an additional fee to service trash cans that were not provided by Waste Management.

Having bears go through people's trash has been a problem for the eight years that Harris has been involved with Waste Management. Trash collectors have come across bears in Dumpsters and have to clean up the messes they leave behind.

"So, it does create some problems for us," Harris said, noting that mother bears are teaching their cubs bad habits of getting into trash.

Having animal-resistant containers would increase the time it takes to service each trash pick-up, Harris said, especially in areas of the city where bears traditionally are not a problem and very few people have bear-resistant containers.

The increased time it takes to service the trash cans will depend on the type of containers the city deems necessary, Harris said. If the cans take more time to service, it would "more than likely" increase the cost of trash collections, Harris said.

The city has been looking at what Aspen and Pitkin County are doing with their bear problems and are hoping to learn from their mistakes.

Aspen and Pitkin County passed an ordinance requiring that the more commonly used and less expensive locking, poly containers be replaced with steel bear-proof containers, steel curbside enclosures or centralized bear-proof Dumpsters, such as Dumpster sheds.

The only poly carts that are allowed are 95-gallon containers with steel reinforcements and a locking mechanism, which is certified by the Living with Wildlife Foundation's bear-resistant products testing program. The containers cost about $200.

"I hope we don't get to that extreme," Harris said. "But then again, there is only so much we can do with the plastic cans."

DuBord said that between the time the council does its first and second reading of the ordinance, the police department plans to do neighborhood outreach programs for education and public input.

If passed, the ordinance would not be enforced until next spring, DuBord said, noting that bears typically are not a problem in the winter.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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