Council looking into bear-proofing trash

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In its efforts to stop bears from visiting homes, the City Council may require residents to use bear-resistant trash containers that cost between $150 and $300.

Council members were not ready to endorse any requirements at Tuesday night's council meeting, but asked staff to meet with Waste Management and the Colorado Division of Wildlife to discuss the issue.

Both Councilman Ken Brenner and Council President Paul Strong said an ordinance likely would not be in place for this fall, but something could be worked on in the coming months.

"So, maybe by next bear season, we are in better shape," Strong said.

In the past two months, council members have expressed concerns about the frequent bear sightings in the city limits and the animals' ability to get into trash cans for food.

Despite the city's bear ordinance, which regulates when residents can leave out trash cans that are not bear-resistant, bears continue to come into the city limits.

Bears can break into trash cans that are advertised as being bear-resistant. Sometimes visitors or second-home owners leaving trash out for pick up when they leave, but days before trash is collected.

"As long as we have trash issues, we will probably also have bear issues," DOW representative Libbie Miller said.

Councilwoman Kathy Connell said that near her home on the mountain, a mother bear is teaching her cubs to go through people's trash.

"It is not getting any better," she said.

In 2001, the city passed an ordinance that 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 pickup, all containers must be returned to the building, house, garage or Dumpster enclosure.

At its Sept. 7 meeting, City Council members asked staff to look at what other cities and counties do for bear-proof containers.

In a memo to the City Council, City Deputy Manager Wendy DuBord noted Aspen and Pitkin County had passed an ordinance requiring that the more commonly used and less-expensive locking, poly containers be replaced with approved steel bear-proof containers, steel curbside enclosures or a centralized bear-proof Dumpster, such as a Dumpster shed.

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 likely would cost about $200.

After talking to staff in Pitkin County and Aspen, DuBord noted they had received many complaints from residents on the added costs of the required containers.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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