MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — A bear cub recently died in Manitou Springs after it got into a trash can, was frightened and scurried up a nearby power pole, where it was electrocuted.
It's just the latest example of how trash attractants are killing black bears, Colorado Parks and Wildlife's southeast division said. The garbage bins were not bear-resistant.
"Lock your garbage! Be Bear Aware. Keep cubs alive," it said in a tweet Tuesday morning.
Manitou Springs has a wildlife ordinance that says all trash containers must be secure from wildlife at all times and garbage must be stored in wildlife-resistant containers or in a secure location inaccessible to wildlife. Tuesdays are trash pickup days in Manitou Springs and the cans can be placed along the road as early as 6 a.m.
Alex Trefry said because this situation is very recent and is still pending an investigation, it's not yet clear if the residents or property owners will face any consequences.
"If a property owner did not have a wildlife resistant container, had their bin out before 6 a.m., and/or had overflowing trash, we would most likely cite the appropriate person(s)," he said.
He added that if Manitou Springs' Neighborhood Services department, which patrols the neighborhoods and commercial areas, sees a violation of the garbage ordinance, the first step is almost always education. Citations are applied to cases of repeat offenders.
Trefey said in addition, the city has applied for a grant from CPW to address this issue.
"The grant would fund free or reduced wildlife resistant trash bins that we could distribute appropriately to our community members," he said. "We hope to see a positive outcome with this submission to help address bears becoming conditioned to finding trash in Manitou Springs."
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At least 8,000 black bears, and as many as 12,000, now call Colorado home. As more people move into bear habitat, conflicts — direct or indirect — continue to happen.
Bears are attracted to human food sources and an unlocked, unsecured trash can provides easy access to a meal. Animals that become accustomed to using this as a regular food source typically lose their fear of humans. And with great memories, they know where to return to grab something to eat — including specific neighborhoods and driveways. While they are not typically aggressive animals, they can easily harm a person, especially one that gets in between it and food. Every year, conflicts with bears result in the animal's death.
"Colorado Parks and Wildlife is charged with protecting and preserving the state’s wildlife," the department says. "Every time we must destroy a bear, it’s not just the bear that loses. We all lose a little piece of the wildness that makes Colorado so special."
CPW is asking residents to ensure they have bear-resistant trash cans if they live near bear habitat. The standard metal or plastic trash cans will not prevent a bear from accessing what's inside. Many disposal companies supply bear-resistant trash containers for an extra cost.
For example, Manitou Spring offers bear-proof cans for both trash and recycling. A can rental fee is $13.50 monthly and the service for one can is $29.40 each month.
Boulder County previously secured a grant from CPW for residents of Jamestown and Lyons so they can purchase bear-resistant trash carts for less than 10% of the retail price. Currently, both are sold out. On the other side of the state, Durango offers bear-resistant trash containers for an extra $4 a month within the city.
CPW also recommends never leaving trash or recycling bins out overnight. One study CPW cited found that putting trash out in the morning of pickups, instead of the night before, reduces the chance of a bear visit from 70% to 2%.
Anybody with questions can contact CPW's Bear Aware volunteers by calling the local CPW office.