Hungry bears could have a harder time raiding cans if hundreds of automatic-locking garbage cans hit the streets next year.
The Durango City Council heard a proposal Tuesday for a two-year plan to distribute cans in the neighborhoods with the biggest bear problems.
“We’ll be rolling this out before the bears wake up,” City Operations Director Levi Lloyd said.
The first phase in 2018 would address an area south of Seventh Street and east of East Second Avenue identified as a hot spot for bears by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife study, Lloyd said. The city would spend $165,000 on residential cans in 2018 and $137,000 on residential cans in 2019.
Bear-strewn trash was a serious problem in the city this fall because a late frost killed off many natural food sources, causing the hungry omnivores to search for calories in town. Fearing a serious bear-human conflict, the council passed an emergency ordinance in September requiring residents to pay $100 the first time they were caught with trash scattered by wildlife.
So far this year, the city has distributed 430 residential bear-proof containers, many of them following the ordinance, Lloyd said. It’s also replaced 13 of the 300-gallon garbage cans in parks, Lloyd said.
This winter, the council plans to revisit city ordinances that address wildlife and garbage. Councilors will look at fines for commercial businesses and allowing electric fences in town to keep bears away from attractants, according to the council’s discussion.
In order to require residents to pay for the planned cans, the council will have to make them mandatory, City Attorney Dirk Nelson said. One way to address the problem could be to make the cans mandatory in particular areas of town, he said.
If the council wanted to make bear-resistant cans mandatory across Durango, the city government could not abide by the rule because it would be too expensive. All the cans needed would cost about $2.3 million, Lloyd said.
He also doesn’t think that ordinance requiring bear-resistant cans across the city is necessary because some people keep garbage cans in their garage and don’t have a problem.
“I don’t think it’s one size fits all,” he said.
Under Lloyd’s proposed plan next year, 600 residential customers could receive new cans. In 2019, 500 residents could get new cans, in an area west of North Main and north of 17th Street. Commercial customers of the city in the area east of Narrow Gauge to Second Avenue and north of Fourth Street could also see new auto-locking mechanisms on their trash receptacles in 2019.
Addressing commercial trash is more complicated because the city can’t make bear-resistant cans mandatory for commercial businesses.
mshinn@ durangoherald.comThis story has been updated to correct the year that auto-locking mechanisms would be on commercial trash receptacles.