Expect stiff fines if a bear scatters your trash in the coming weeks.
The Durango City Council approved an emergency ordinance Tuesday to eliminate warnings if a resident is found to have wildlife-strewn trash and to boost fines.
Residents will be subject to a $100 fine for a wildlife first violation; any subsequent violation will be a $200 fine.
“Those people who are not paying attention will pay attention when they get a $100 fine,” Councilor Sweetie Marbury said.
Residents previously received a warning before receiving a $50 fine and $100 fines for subsequent offenses.
Residents will still be required to obtain a bear-resistant can on their first offense.
The ordinance goes into effect immediately, and it will be in place for 60 days – while bears are bulking up in preparation for winter.
“Hopefully, we can change some human behavior,” City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.
Most residents spoke in favor of higher and more immediate fines to get the attention of others who are leaving their trash in a vulnerable can.
“It’s only going to be a matter of time before someone is injured by a bear,” Jim Sims said.
In addition to the ordinance, the city has also responded to many more bear-related issues this year and distributed hundreds of new bear-resistant cans.
Code enforcement officers have responded to more than 500 calls related to bears and issued about $1,250 worth of fines related to bear issues, Code Enforcement Officer Steve Barkley said.
The city has about 5,000 residential customers, and about 40 percent have bear-resistant cans, said City Operations Director Levi Lloyd.
This year, the city has given out about 300 bear-resistant cans, and it does not have any more available right now.
If someone gets a fine after attempting to get a bear-resistant can, they can make their case to a municipal judge, LeBlanc said. However, members of the audience pointed out that a bear-resistant can isn’t necessary to secure trash in a garage or through some other strategy.
The city is expecting 200 more residential containers by Sept. 17, Lloyd said.
The city is also planning to install more bear-resistant cans in parks and trails, LeBlanc.
Efforts to meet the need for bear-resistant cans and devices have resulted in $108,000 in expenditures this year, Lloyd said.
The city planned to spend $43,500 this year on wildlife-resistant cans and locking mechanisms.
Residents pay for bear-resistant cans over about a four year period, but the city must purchase those cans up front, Lloyd said.
In the coming years, the city plans to continue purchasing bear-resistant cans for the city and residents.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers said that the season is on par with 2012, one of the worst seasons for natural foods in the forest.
In August, across the region from Pagosa Springs to Cortez, 10 bears had to be killed, six were shot by landowners and 15 were killed crossing roads, Area Wildlife Manager Matt Thorpe said.
When bears cannot find food in human cans or can’t open a can they are likely to move on, said Steve McClung with CPW.