Combating a Growing Bear Menace!

Green Mountain Falls’ residents may face mandatory animal-protective trash rules

– by Rick Langenberg –

With a growing onslaught of bears that at times take control of local streets, Green Mountain Falls’ homeowners could face mandatory rules for obtaining protective containers for trash.

If implemented, the small Ute Pass community could become the first town in the local area to enact full fledged, bear-proof defensive measures that aren’t done on a voluntary basis. A similar bear-proof trash plan is being considered in Manitou Springs

In addition, the Woodland Park City Council was recently addressed by residents, who wanted to see more bear-proof containers installed in popular park and trail areas.  

According to GMF Town Manager Verla Bruner, the town hopes to have bear-proof trash container rules enacted by April 2018. Under this proposal, residents that don’t comply could get fined, following initial warnings.

However, many details of the plan still need to get resolved. Town leaders must rework their current codes that provide conflicting language regarding bear-proof trash containers.

Also, Bruner expressed a strong desire to work with the current trash service providers, in an effort to have them provide the special containers to local customers, free of charge. She said she has received much encouragement in initial talks with area trash providers. The town manager believes this cooperative solution could offer the best option for Green Mountain Falls

Otherwise, residents would face the obligation of purchasing these containers themselves, a solution that could pose some technical difficulties. “Our residents are stuck in the middle,” said Bruner.  

“If they (area trash providers) are doing business in Green Mountain Falls, there is no reason they shouldn’t provide these bear-protective trash cans,” added the town manager

The plan got a fairly good response by the trustees. However, one question cited dealt with residents who currently store their garbage inside a structure.

Other forthcoming questions may deal with the large number of residents who currently don’t put out their trash until the day of scheduled pick-ups, or how town authorities plan to enforce the anti-bear garbage rules.

Mayor Jane Newberry advised Bruner to check with Manitou Springs to see what kind of regulations they plan to finally implement. The trustees also mentioned that the town’s current codes would have to be adjusted, in order for the plan to move forward.

Despite these possible bumps in the road in enacting a final bear-defense move, no one is arguing that GMF has a huge bear menace. In GMF, it is not uncommon for hikers and families to see black bears strolling down main thoroughfares near trail areas, or openly searching for hordes of garbage in the summer and fall in residential parts of town. This often creates much discomfort and presents possible showdowns between many canines in town and bears.

Another unfortunate problem deals with tourists, who enjoy the sight of black bears that from a distance almost resemble majestic large dogs, and often feed the Carnivoran mammals. Black bears are often regarded as an attractive draw for some, who actually provide the bears with food.

According to state wildlife officials, this illegal feeding can really result in serving as a death sentence for black bears, who then become accustomed to a human environment. As a result, the bears will likely be hunted down by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials and ultimately killed.   

“It is a people problem,” admitted Bruner, following last week’s meeting. She said the town recently experienced a break-in of a cabin from a bear scavenging for food. That’s now an uncommon occurrence in Green Mountain Falls. More common is the sight of bears occupying the same streets used by residents and their pets, creating the possibility of conflicts.

A growing state problem and probable solutions

The town’s bear menace is part of a state trend.

A growing number of sightings have occurred in Colorado. According to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, since 2005 bear encounters have steadily increased along with bear mortality rates.

State wildlife officials advise residents to keep trash locked up and 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,” said a Colorado Wildlife official, according to a previous article in TMJ News. “They don’t like to be around people. What we find is… whey 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.”

The main question facing local communities deals with the cost of implementing cost-effective bear-proof defensive measures. At a recent council meeting, Woodland Park City Manager David Buttery, in response to citizen concerns, estimated the cost of providing bear-proof cans in park and trail areas as high as $15,000. A group in Manitou Springs, called “Bear Safe Manitou Springs,” estimates that the cost for residents to provide bear-proof trash containers could run as high as $200 per can.

These costs have forced group leaders to investigate the possibility of grants to help subsidize the expenses for residents  who can’t afford to buy bear-proof containers.