Bear season arrives, Steamboat police stepping up enforcement of trash rules | CraigDailyPress.com

Bear season arrives, Steamboat police stepping up enforcement of trash rules

Matt Stensland

The city and Colorado Park and Wildlife offer these bear tips

• Make your regular resistant trash container bear-proof. Use additional tie downs.

• Freeze you edible trash. Dedicate a grocery bag and place all edibles in the freezer until trash pick-up day. This will prevent bears from being attracted to the smell of your trash. Also works for residential complexes with large industrial containers.

• Educate friends, family, parents, neighbors and especially people visiting or people new to the area. Let visitors know about spring and fall bear seasons.

• Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them odor free.

• If you don’t have secure storage, put items that might become smelly into the freezer until trash day.

• Bears don't like the smell of ammonia. Consider putting some in your trash container.

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• Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.

• Fully enclose backyard beehives and chicken coops. Electric fencing is an effective bear deterrent.

• Allow grills to burn for a couple of minutes after cooking to burn off grease and to eliminate odors. Clean grills and grease cup after each use.

• Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck. Don’t allow food odors to linger.

• If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don’t allow fruit to rot on the ground.

• Keep garage doors closed.

• Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.

• Do not keep food or used-food containers in your vehicle. Lock vehicle doors and roll up the windows.

— When the ski season ends in Steamboat Springs, the bear season begins.

In light of increasing instances of bear problems, the Steamboat Springs Police Department is stepping up enforcement related to trash rules. One citation has already been issued to a homeowner who had unsecured trash, and another one was pending, said Scott Schaffer, who supervises the city's community service officers. At the end of this week and next week, officers will focus on commercial dumpsters, tagging every dumpster they find that is not secured.

"There are bear calls almost daily now," Schaffer said.

So far, most of the calls have related to complaints of bears getting into trash, but last week a bear broke into a garage in the Tree Haus neighborhood and caused damage to the garage door.

Christy Bubenheim, with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Steamboat, said they began receiving reports of bears waking up from hibernation about a month ago.

"They're usually not a problem for the first month," Bubenheim said.

This winter, city officials reviewed existing rules related to trash, and the city council considered whether to require residents to buy truly bear-proof containers. Because of the cost, however, council members did not put the mandate into place. Instead, they made changes to the existing ordinance that will allow police to better enforce the rules.

In addition, the city committed to spending $85,000 or more to bring its own trash containers at parks and public places into compliance.

Schaffer said there have already been problems with people leaving trash cans by the curb when they are not scheduled to be picked up.

The city's rules state that trash can only be put out after 6 a.m. the day it is to be picked up. The trash cans then need to be brought back inside by 8 p.m.

If a bear gets into a residential trash can more than once, the city can require the resident to purchase a bear-proof trash can.

Those who are issued a citation pay $250 for the first violation. A second offense is $500 and a third offense is $750. A fine can be waived if the offender agrees to purchase a bear-proof trash can.

The city's rules also address bird feeders, which bears are attracted to. Between April 15 and Nov. 15, bird feeders must be suspended from a cable or other device so they are unaccessible to terrestrial wildlife. Areas below the feeder must be kept free of the accumulation of seed, seed debris or other attractive or edible materials.

Businesses that do not keep their dumpsters secure face the same fines as residents.

Commercial dumpsters must be bear-proof, with lids and locking bars.

If bears still manage to get into the dumpsters, the business owner in question may be required to get a different dumpster.

"Enforcement and fines may convince some people to take notice, but we cannot change the bears' behavior unless everyone actively works together," Schaffer wrote in an email.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

The city and Colorado Park and Wildlife offer these bear tips

• Make your regular resistant trash container bear-proof. Use additional tie downs.

• Freeze you edible trash. Dedicate a grocery bag and place all edibles in the freezer until trash pick-up day. This will prevent bears from being attracted to the smell of your trash. Also works for residential complexes with large industrial containers.

• Educate friends, family, parents, neighbors and especially people visiting or people new to the area. Let visitors know about spring and fall bear seasons.

• Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them odor free.

• If you don’t have secure storage, put items that might become smelly into the freezer until trash day.

• Bears don’t like the smell of ammonia. Consider putting some in your trash container.

• Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.

• Fully enclose backyard beehives and chicken coops. Electric fencing is an effective bear deterrent.

• Allow grills to burn for a couple of minutes after cooking to burn off grease and to eliminate odors. Clean grills and grease cup after each use.

• Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck. Don’t allow food odors to linger.

• If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don’t allow fruit to rot on the ground.

• Keep garage doors closed.

• Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.

• Do not keep food or used-food containers in your vehicle. Lock vehicle doors and roll up the windows.

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