Winter Park / Fraser bear ordinance long overdue
July 18, 2008
On the front page of last Friday’s paper, we ran the headline, “Wildlife officer forced to shoot bear in Grand County campground.”
A male bear was spotted three times lingering near Willow Creek Campground looking for food.
A Colorado Department of Wildlife agent was forced to take action when the bear returned to the campground and planted himself about 10 yards away from a family’s campsite.
The agent tried warning, non-lethal shots, but when the bear began to charge, the agent shot to kill.
The bear, DOW officials later said, felt comfortable in human occupied areas during daylight hours. Agents said the bear’s behavior was unusual, but the incident raises a lot of questions.
Though this story ended in a bear fatality, it wasn’t the first story this summer of a bear wandering near humans looking for food.
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On June 10, we ran a front-page photo of a black bear perched on the rail of someone’s deck in Winter Park, drinking out of a hummingbird feeder. The photo accompanied the story, “Grand County bears dining in town as natural food scarce because of cool weather.”
At the time, Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the agency is “seeing an increased number of calls.”
On July 1 and 2, Winter Park-Fraser police chief Glen Trainor approached the Winter Park and Fraser town boards respectively, asking them to pass a bear ordinance that requires bear-proof trash containers in town limits.
Winter Park took action immediately, passing the ordinance on its first reading by a 4-3 vote. The ordinance will be up for a second reading and vote at the Aug. 5 meeting.
Fraser discussed drafting its own version of the ordinance, but it didn’t come up again on the most recent town board agenda.
Winter Park / Fraser is one of the last mountain towns in Colorado to consider a bear ordinance.
Most resort towns have had ordinances in place for years, and recently have updated those ordinances with stiffer penalties and tighter restrictions because of increased interaction between bears and humans.
Last summer, Aspen unanimously passed an emergency bear ordinance that increased fines to as much as $1,000 for leaving trash bins open and not using bear-resistant containers.
This June, Durango followed the lead of other towns by passing a bear ordinance that imposed fines of as much as $500 on any resident or business that repeatedly attracted bears through unsafe practices, such as leaving trash containers out overnight, leaving out pet food or not cleaning off grills.
This spring, Glenwood Springs passed an ordinance to issue citations and fines as high as $500 to property owners, renters and property managers who attract wildlife with unsafe practices. As in many communities with similar ordinances, trash containers cannot be taken out prior to 6 a.m. and must be brought inside before 8 p.m. on the day of scheduled pickup.
Winter Park and Fraser need to follow the lead of these other towns and pass a bear ordinance that punishes people who invite bears near our homes by leaving out easily accessible trash as bait.
We choose to live in this beautiful place, right on the edge of bear habitat.
Bears waddle into town looking for french fries and pizza crusts. If we make the mistake and leave the scraps out, however unintentionally, the bears pay the price.
Both Winter Park and Fraser councils were worried about the cost of this ordinance to business owners and residents. Fraser mayor Fran Cook suggested some form of cost-sharing to make it possible.
However they choose to make it possible, the leaders of Grand County need to move forward with the passage of a bear ordinance.
The cost of putting a lock on a trash container is far less than the potential cost of bears being habituated to our Dumpster dinner tables.