Bear calls on the rise just 2 months after city adopts bear ordinance (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Just two months after Steamboat Springs City Council adopted an ordinance for bear-resistant trash receptacles, bear sightings and incidences continue to be on the rise.
Calls for service related to bears by the Steamboat Springs Police Department have increased 27% so far this year compared with the same period in 2019. Since the beginning of May, there have been 162 bear-related calls, with 206 total since the start of the year.
“We’re regularly responding to bear calls,” Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen said. “Bear calls in general are up this year.”
Steamboat City Manager Gary Suiter called the increase in bear-related calls testimony to City Council’s adoption of the new ordinance in May.
Passed by a 6-1 vote, the ordinance requires residents and businesses to keep their trash in bear-resistant containers, bear-resistant dumpsters or within a bear-resistant enclosure. The single vote in dissent was made by Council Member Robin Crossan, who said the timing was not right to adopt the ordinance.
Local trash haulers Twin Enviro and Waste Management also said it was not an ideal time — considering the economic impacts and uncertainty of COVID-19 — for the haulers to have to make a capital investment or for consumers to see increased costs.
Both haulers estimated their customers would see bills increase by about 30%.
The ordinance includes a program to assist low-income residents with the increased cost. The subsidy program, which will expire in 2022, will provide about $100 per year per qualifying resident, which will cover nearly all of the increase.
Customers will be required to lease the new containers from the haulers, and the haulers will replace cans in the event they are damaged.
Suiter said Twin Enviro had submitted to the city specifications for a bear-resistant receptacle they would potentially provide customers, which was designated as certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Once the company makes an order and has those in stock, customers should be able to call and request one. As for dumpsters, they can be retrofitted and not replaced, according to Suiter.
In the meantime, the city is working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to determine hot spots where bear activity is greatest in Steamboat. Those areas will likely be the first to implement bear-resistant receptacles.
The ordinance specifies a three-year implementation period, with 25% of residences within city limits needing bear-resistant containers by the end of March 2021. Then, 50% by 2022 and 100% by 2023.
Steamboat officers are starting to go into the community and discuss the ordinance with property owners, according to Christensen.
Enforcement of the ordinance so far is mostly reactive — when people contact law enforcement after bears get into somebody’s trash, Christensen said. At that point, citations could potentially be issued for noncompliance.
“If you got cited, it’s because a bear got into your trash and somebody called us,” Christensen explained.
Other than that, he said, the department is not necessarily proactive when it comes to bear-related calls, except when considering commercial properties.
“It’s proven that making it hard for bears to get to the food is beneficial to keep bears out of the trash,” Christensen said. “We see that over and over again.”
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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