The bears are back; here are some reminders

Ah, finally, spring – albeit a tad windy and dry, but very welcome regardless.

With the warmer weather comes talk of planting gardens, building chicken coops, outdoor composting, setting out hummingbird feeders, putting up beehives and readying fruit trees.

All these noble tasks share a common link: They all have the potential to attract bears. And we, as a community, have gotten really good at attracting bears. The numbers – 82 bears killed in 2012 in our area outside of hunting – and the level of conflict reflect the overwhelming amount of human foods available to bears.

Fortunately, there are solutions and opportunities to learn more about reducing human-bear conflict and the chance of unfortunate, sometimes costly, interactions.

Bear Wake-Up Social

As a reminder that bears are out of hibernation and back among us, Bear Smart Durango will host its second Spring Bear Wake-Up Social, a fun and educational community event geared toward informing residents about best practices for preventing human-bear conflict.

This event will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Durango Discovery Museum and features kids’ activities (including a “bear scat” eating contest), live music, food and Carver’s beer, an electric-fencing demonstration by Gallagher Fencing, fruit tree information, bear-resistant container examples and bear spray demonstrations.

David Petersen, author of Ghost Grizzlies: Does the Great Bear Still Haunt Colorado? will give a slideshow talk at 6:30 p.m. in the Powerhouse Theater. It’s been a decade since his last presentation, and Petersen tends to draw a crowd, so you’re advised to arrive early.

Local bear and trash ordinances

In an effort to limit the amount of human foods available to bears, the city of Durango and La Plata County have enacted ordinances that specify how trash is to be managed. City and county residents are required to safely store trash either in a structure (such as a garage or shed) or bear-resistant trash container. Both ordinances run from April 15 to Nov. 15.

For county residents, trash containers are to be placed curbside only on the morning of collection and no earlier than 5:30 a.m. Fines are $200 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for each additional offense. Many homeowners associations have similar rules. If your HOA doesn’t have rules relating to bears and trash, please talk to other members about developing guidelines or bylaws.

In the city, trash containers can be placed at the curbside only on the morning of collection, no earlier than 6 a.m. Fines are $50 for a second offense and $100 for each additional offense.

Several local waste haulers provide bear-resistant residential and commercial trash containers upon request at additional expense. Before ordering, make sure the container has been certified by the interagency Living With Wildlife Foundation testing program as being bear-resistant. More information at: www.lwwf.org/Bear-resistant%20products%20testing.htm.

The county ordinance is entirely complaint-driven, and residents are asked to report bear and trash incidents by calling Central Dispatch at 385-2900. City residents are encouraged to do the same.

Bp@frontier.net. Bryan Peterson is director of Bear Smart Durango, formed in 2003 to educate residents about safely and respectfully coexisting with bears and to advocate for policy changes. For more information, visit www.bearsmartdurango.org.

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