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Device could lock down trash from bears

Steamboat Springs community service officer supervisor Scott Schaffer (from left), wildlife officer Andrea Sponseller, RS Welding owner Rollin Stone and wildlife officer Steve Baumgartner examine a trash can retrofit built by Stone and designed to keep bears out.
Matt Stensland

— Rollin Stone thinks he has the solution, or is at least very close.

The owner of RS Welding was in his shop with other welders recently when they decided to take a shot at solving one of Steamboat’s biggest dilemmas: Trash is an easy source of calories for local black bears, and many residents still are not doing enough to keep it out of their paws.

“We always like challenges,” Stone said. “We’re kind of competitive at the shop.”



After about three hours of work using scrap metal at the shop, Stone and his team came up with a trash can reinforcement device they think will defeat a bear.

“We do a lot of bearproofing, but we’ve never done cans,” Stone said.



Bearproof trash cans and retrofits are nothing new, but Stone set out to develop one that would be affordable and usable on all the cans provided by Steamboat’s three trash haulers.

With labor and parts, Stone estimated the device would cost about $150, a price that might be affordable to residents.

On Wednesday, Stone received feedback from Scott Schaffer, Steamboat Springs community service officer supervisor, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife district wildlife managers Andrea Sponseller and Steve Baumgartner.

“Overall, it’s a really solid design,” Baumgartner said.

The can, which Stone’s co-workers named the RS 5000, is still in the prototype phase.

Baumgartner offered two key suggestions. First, he said the metal strap wrapped around the can to keep a bear from prying open the edges needed to be beefier. Second, he suggested Stone tweak the latches and consider a self-latching design.

“Keeping it user-friendly is going to be key,” Baumgartner said. “The self-latching cans that I’ve dealt with were the most consumer friendly.”

The device also has to be user-friendly for trash haulers.

“I’m talking to the trash companies right now to see what they want to do,” Stone said. “This is kind of our foot in the door, so to speak.”

Based on those meetings, Stone might gain a better idea of how the devices might be rolled out. He did not know whether trash companies would want to install the devices or if he would sell them directly to residents.

Stone plans to do additional real-world testing. He has already set out the can with the device, but it was not clear whether a bear showed any interest.

Baumgartner told Stone there was still time to do testing with a game camera and see if the retrofit would withstand bears attacks.

“They’re super hungry right now,” Baumgartner said.

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


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