A proposed wildlife ordinance for the city of Durango is being rewritten to more closely resemble La Plata County's by
targeting human behavior to cut down on bear encounters in town, starting with restrictions on when and where residents
may dispose of their garbage.
This is a great step forward," said Bryan Peterson, who founded Bear Smart Durango in 2003 in response to growing
problems with bears. Trash is the major attractant by far."
And Durango has one of the worst bear problems in Colorado," he said.
There were 627 bear sightings in Durango last year, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Bear Smart and
The Durango Herald's Bear Tracker." Fifty-five percent of the sightings involved human food as an attractant, and 90
percent of those instances involved trash.
The city doesn't have a wildlife ordinance on the books but has responded to increased bear activity by adjusting
several laws. Peterson said those changes don't go far enough.
But the proposed wildlife ordinance was deemed too tough by councilors at a meeting last month. Councilor Doug Lyon
called it punitive." On Tuesday, councilors asked the city attorney to lower the severe" fine amounts written into
the first draft, but a dawn-to-dusk" rule that says trash is allowed to be taken out only during the day is likely
to stick around.
Under the ordinance, residents would be issued a violation notice for the first instance of upset trash; the second
instance would result in a $50 fine, and a $100 fine would be assessed for a third violation.
In lieu of paying the fine, a resident would have the option to buy or lease a wildlife-resistant trash container
from the city. It costs $4 per month to lease a green plastic BearSaver container.
Residents would be fined even if the scattered trash came from a container advertised as wildlife-resistant" and
even if it was purchased from the city.
The proof will be in the can because if the bears get in, it's not wildlife-resistant," said Assistant City Manager
Greg Caton, who oversees trash collection.
As the law is written, residents will be ticketed regardless of whether a bear is the animal that upsets a container.
The fines would be imposed to both residential and commercial garbage service users.
Restrictions involving placement times on collection days might prove more burdensome to residents. Under the
proposed ordinance, cans would be allowed curbside only between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on collection days. Currently, residents may place trash containers on publicly owned rights of way from 6 p.m. the day before pickup until 6 p.m.
the day after.
Councilor Christina Thompson has asked that dawn-to-dusk" be relaxed a bit.
Some of us don't have garages," she said. And some people have told me that they leave to travel to Denver early in
the morning. This would be very difficult for them."
Unlike the wildlife ordinances in Mancos, Telluride, Vail, Ouray and La Plata County, the city's proposed ordinance
doesn't include definitions for terms such as wildlife-resistant" and wildlife."
Director of General Services Roy Peterson said not having definitions allows his code enforcement workers to apply
common sense when issuing citations. And code enforcement officer Steve Barkley said he expects enforcement of the
proposed ordinance to be primarily complaint-driven.
Vail's ordinance includes a heavy education component and strict definitions.
We got (bears) in downtown Vail (because) we did such a good job getting them out of the residential neighborhoods,"
said Matt Lindvall, former head of the Vail Police Department's Bear Unit who wrote Vail's first wildlife ordinance.
But over time, we developed a good program for getting them back in the woods."
Lindvall now lives in Durango. He thought having definitions helped Vail's city attorney back up the ordinance in
court and said he's in favor of including definitions in Durango's law.
Peterson, with Bear Smart, said the issue is a moral one; inviting bears into town is dangerous to neighbors and akin
to a death sentence for the bears.
The ordinance says your right to store your trash in any manner you see fit ends when you attract bears in to your
neighbors," he said.