Wildlife Commission approves reactive regulation
SUMMIT COUNTY – In preparation for the coming bear season, the state Wildlife Commission has approved a regulation allowing wildlife officers to fine people who continually attract bears.
Though bear/human encounters are not unexpected when living in the mountains or near bear habitat, they can be decreased by some simple habits, said Todd Malmsbury, chief of information for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW).
Those habits include keeping trash in wildlife-proof containers or enclosed spaces such as a garage, and putting out garbage the morning trash is collected instead of the night before.
Malmsbury said some people ignore wildlife officers’ requests to make such changes but, before now, officers had no jurisdiction to penalize the offenders.
The new regulation, which goes into effect May 1, allows wildlife officers to write tickets for anyone who illegally feeds big game and attracts big game by leaving food out.
There is a $68 fine for each violation. Malmsbury said fines would only be issued to repeat offenders who ignore CDOW requests to remove attractants from the vicinity of their residence or business.
“In those cases when a person has been warned repeatedly … it does give our guys a new tool that will hopefully convince them to change their behavior,” Malmsbury said.
But Malmsbury noted that the CDOW regulation passed last month is reactive, rather than proactive. The real solution to minimizing the bear problem can be found at a local level, he said.
Some Colorado towns, including Blue River in Summit County and several in the Roaring Fork Valley, have passed local ordinances that are proactive, and can lessen the bear problem.
The Blue River ordinance includes requirements that all refuse containers be approved wildlife-resistant, construction sites must have separate containers for edible and non-edible materials and the edible items must be wildlife-proof or emptied at the end of each day; and birdfeeders must be suspended on cables out of a bear’s reach.
Penalties in Blue River are much higher than the CDOW fine. For residents, the first offense is $50, the second within the same year is $250, and a third offense will result in a court summons. Construction sites have even higher penalties, starting at $250 for the first offense.
“I didn’t have many calls personally in Blue River last year,” said Summit County district wildlife manager Kirk Oldham.
Oldham said while he cannot directly attribute the low human/bear encounters in Blue River to the new ordinance, towns with such ordinances have experienced a lower number of encounters.
Despite the seeming success of such ordinances, Oldham said he cannot make recommendations that other towns follow Blue River’s lead.
“We just provide educational information to local municipalities at their request and to homeowners at their request,” Oldham said.
If other Summit County municipalities decide to explore proactive measures such as Blue River’s, they would need to contact Oldham for the necessary information.
Lu Snyder can be reached at 970-668-3998 x203 or email@example.com
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