So many bears are digging into trash cans that the Durango City Council may enact an emergency ordinance in September to strengthen penalties.
The council may eliminate the first warning residents receive if they are found with bear-strewn trash and issue a $50 ticket for a wildlife-raided can. Subsequent violations are punished with a $100 fine, according to the city ordinance.
“I want to see action happening now,” Councilor Sweetie Marbury said.
Emergency ordinances can be enacted for 60 days. If the ordinance is enacted Sept. 5, it could tighten enforcement through the fall when there is likely to be increased bear activity, Mayor Dick White said.
“People are at risk because of bears marauding,” he said.
Eliminating the warning could be a simple short-term action.
At an October study session, councilors are expected to consider more changes to regulations to encourage people to get bear-resistant containers and to increase fines for bear-strewn trash.
The council will likely discuss replacing all of the city’s garbage cans with bear-resistant receptacles.
A late frost in June hurt acorn and berry production in the mountains. The berries that bears rely on would normally be ripening around this time of year, but bears aren’t finding them, and they are turning to human sources of food.
A study conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers in Durango found as conflicts between bears and humans are likely to continue, and as bears continue to forage in urban areas, it could lead to bear population declines.
It also found that neighborhoods in Durango without bear-resistant containers saw far more bear raids than those where the bear-resistant cans were distributed.