Bear Can Dilemma

Woodland Park City Council addressed residents concerns over lack of bear proof trash cans at the city’s parks and public areas at this month’s council meeting.

Anna Wieland addressed the council sighting areas around town that are not fully equipped with bear proof trash cans. She said, “I went to Memorial Park for the Fourth of July celebration and I noticed that not all of the trash containers were bear proof. I went around my neighborhood passing out information to neighbors who were not putting their trash away safely. They were pretty receptive and began putting their trash in their garages. I realized that Parks & Wildlife was encouraging residents to not put their trash out at night, but the city of Woodland Park is not doing their job. I would like a budget proposal that the city of Woodland Park buy an additional 3 bear proof containers for Memorial Park.” She also mentioned the lack of bear proof containers at the pavilion, Meadow Wood Park, and the Cultural Center.

Wieland also raised the concern over dumpsters that have plastic lids that are also vulnerable to raids by bears. She suggested dumpsters with plastic lids be replaced with metal lid dumpsters with a bar to secure the lid.

City Manager David Buttery spoke to Wieland earlier about the issue and researched the problem. He responded with the results of his investigation and related the findings to Wieland and the council.

Buttery thanked Wieland for her presentation and responded, “Thank you for your passion wanting to protect the critters in our town and also the safety of residents as well. We have made some progress in Memorial Park. Currently 5 bear proof cans and 2 non bear proof cans at Memorial Park. The ones that aren’t we empty frequently. What we have found is, once the bear proof ones become full, which is being heavily used these days, people just stack their trash next to the side of Buttery then gave a summary of where and how many bear proof cans are located around town. There are 2 bear proof double cans at Crestwood Park, 1 bear proof double can at Red Mountain Park, 7 bear proof cans, 2 double cans, and 2 non bear proof cans at Meadow Wood Park. He noted that during soccer season there are an additional 6 non bear proof cans at Meadow Wood.

Other parks and public areas in his survey include Caviler Park, 1 double bear proof and 1 non, Bergstrom 1 bear proof and 1 non, Lions Park 4 decorative cans (non bear proof), Trailhead 2 decorative non bear proof cans, and the Cultural Center 3 non bear proof.

Buttery said, “The ultimate goal is to replace all non bear proof containers with bear proof ones, with the exception of the ones at Meadow Wood Park brought in during soccer season, however the immediate needs are the ones mentioned at Memorial Park and Caviler Park.” He continued, “The bear proof singles are more cost effective than the doubles. The single bear proof containers cost $825 delivered. To replace all non bear proof containers with bear proof ones would cost around $15,000, one time buy. What we have been doing the last few years is, as we are able as we approach the end of the year, we buy one or two and get them installed.”

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, since 2005 bear encounters have steadily gone up and so have bear mortality rates.

Wildlife officials ask residents to be aware. Keep trash locked up, make sure all residue is cleaned off grills, as bears can smell food from five miles away. “Black bears in particular are naturally very shy creatures,” Truitt said. “They don’t like to be around people. What we find is when they’ve become conditioned, when they have a habitat that has formed that humans provide an easy source as food – that’s when a bear really becomes a problem. When they lose their fear of people.”

Woodland Park is not the only front range area facing issues with bears. Manitou Springs is considering an ordinance to require residents to buy bear proof trash cans. A group called “Bear Safe Manitou Springs” is hoping to save the bears by asking City Council to draft an ordinance requiring homeowners to be more responsible with their trash.

The group asked Manitou City Council on September 5 to consider an ordinance to require people to store garbage in a building or to purchase a wildlife-resistant trash can.

Manitou residents have mixed feelings about the ordinance centered mainly on the high cost of bear proof trash cans. The cans cost about $200 each.

A spokesperson for the group said, “We don’t want to put undue stress on residents who just can’t afford them that’s not fair to them,” The Bear Smart group said though they haven’t secured funding yet, they hope to find some kind of grant money to subsidize the cost for those who can’t afford it.