Making living with bruins bear-able

Evergreen group touts benefits of bear-resistant trash cans

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/21/21

The bears are awake, and a new group in the foothills wants to encourage more residents to have bear-resistant trash cans. Bear Aware hopes to create an awareness campaign to take to homeowners …

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Making living with bruins bear-able

Evergreen group touts benefits of bear-resistant trash cans

Posted

The bears are awake, and a new group in the foothills wants to encourage more residents to have bear-resistant trash cans.

Bear Aware hopes to create an awareness campaign to take to homeowners associations and schools, explaining the issues with bears getting into trash. Bears that get into trash become emboldened to get into homes to find food, and that kind of behavior leads to them being euthanized.

According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, one study showed that simply putting trash out the morning of pickup cuts the chances of a bear visit from 70% to 2%.

CPW tracks bear incidents by area, and Clear Creek, Park and western Jefferson counties are considered Area 1. In 2020, Area 1 logged 334 bear reports compared with 182 in 2019, and nearly half of them were bears getting into trash.

Barbara Gertz, who lives in Wah Keeney Park and heads up Bear Aware, said bears visited her neighborhood at least five nights a week last summer.

“I have a huge concern about the safety of our bears and the safety of my neighborhood and other neighborhoods,” Gertz said. “We have got to do something to figure out how we can co-exist with our bears in our community. We need to keep them safe and us safe.”

She said while she expects the Jefferson County commissioners wouldn’t enact an ordinance requiring bear-resistant trash cans and/or putting trash cans out in the morning, some HOAs can.

“HOAs are a great way to help people understand the issues with bears,” she said. “There are so many things that we can do that would help improve our community. We have an awesome community that does things like this.”

She said her No. 1 ask of residents now was to scrub out trash cans to make them less attractive to bears.

“If everybody does it as a project, we’re doing a really good first step,” she explained. “If we don’t do something, the bears will suffer.”

Bryan Peterson, executive director of Bear Smart Durango, spoke at a virtual meeting of Bear Aware’s companion organization, Wild Aware, noting that he has probably seen everything that can happen in a community with bears since the organization started in 2003. He said that about 80 percent of the trash containers in Durango are bear-resistant, but that was easier to accomplish through Durango’s municipal government.

He explained that people who are new to mountain living don’t understand bear issues, and simple things like bird seed, hummingbird feeders, fruit trees and decaying pumpkins in the fall can attract bears.

“Any time we can get people to think about bears, that’s great,” Peterson said. “Bears are just being bears. They go to the easiest food source available.”

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