Steamboat Springs Hungry bears will have a tougher time filling up on trash in Steamboat Springs city parks.
The city is installing bear-proof trash cans at parks across Steamboat. The special trash can "requires a little more dexterity than a bear has," Ernie Jenkins, the parks supervisor for Steamboat's Parks, Open Space & Recreational Services Department, wrote in an e-mail. "The new ones are latched closed, and you must open the latch to put trash in the can."
The new cans are heavier - weighing almost 200 pounds. The price tag also is a little heftier, at about $800 plus shipping and handling compared to the $200 cost of the old trash cans.
The city decided to try the new containers based on recommendations from other parks departments in mountain towns, Jenkins said. The new trash can is not available for residential use.
The city began phasing in the new receptacles last winter, and they can be found in Fetcher, Lil' Toots, Rotary and Boy Scouts parks. The city hopes to have them in all parks where bears have been seen within a few years.
"This year there have been approximately 40 bear reports - about the same amount as last year," said Danielle Domson, district wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife.
The city requires residents to store trash in a wildlife-proof container if it is left outside between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. A wildlife-proof container must be fully enclosed, sturdy and include a latch strong enough to prevent wildlife from opening the container. The container cannot have drain holes larger than 1 inch.
Capt. Joel Rae of the Steamboat Springs Police Department said "officers will ticket for garbage that is left out without a lid." There is no penalty for the first violation, but the second violation comes with a $350 fine, and the third violation carries a $1,000 fine.
Approved bear-proof trash cans can be purchased at Ace Hardware and start at $229.99.
"If a bear wants to get in, he'll get in. Nothing is completely bear-proof, but people need to be careful," said Wendy DuBord, deputy city manager.
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