Bear ordinance on agenda

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The Steamboat Springs City Council will consider strengthening the city's bear ordinance, increasing penalties for offenders and requiring residents who have repeated problems to use wildlife-proof trash cans.

The council meets at 5 p.m. in Centennial Hall.

As proposed, the ordinance would require residents to use wildlife-proof trash containers if they do not have an enclosed storage area or garage for their trash or wish to leave their trash outside before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

The ordinance already in place calls for a wildlife-resistant container for those who leave trash out before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

The proposed ordinance also would allow for the city manager rule. If a certain property has more than one reported incident in a three-month period, the city manager can deem the residence a problem and require the use of a wildlife-proof trash can.

City Deputy Manager Wendy DuBord said the resident does not have to be in violation of the bear ordinance for the rule to go into effect.

Hopes are to have the revised ordinance approved this winter and to begin enforcement in the spring, DuBord said.

In conjunction with the changed ordinance, the city municipal judge will be allowed more flexibility in assigning fines and penalties to those who violate the bear ordinance. Currently, the bear ordinance is considered a public nuisance and if cited, the owner only has to abate the nuisance -- in this case, remove the trash.

This summer, hundreds of citations were issued in the city for violation of the bear ordinance, but only four cases went to municipal court. The judge dismissed two of those cases.

Throughout the fall, the council had repeated discussions about the increasing numbers of bear and other wildlife complaints in the city limits and the need to strengthen its ordinance. One of the major problems, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials said, was animals getting into residents' trash. They warned that it only would worsen if trash was not stored more securely.

At a Nov. 16 meeting, council members turned down the first reading of an ordinance that would have required all residents to use wildlife-proof trash containers, regardless of where they live in the city and when they leave their trash out.

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