Bearing with a trash problem: Local codes look to limit human-bear conflicts from garbage |

Bearing with a trash problem: Local codes look to limit human-bear conflicts from garbage

A black bear works to tip over a trashcan while attempting to reach edible garbage inside the container.
Courtesy photo / Marc Mandelbaum

Human-bear conflicts are an unfortunate feature of Grand County’s summers and while the chance encounters are inevitable in the Rockies, there is one element in particular that often catalyzes the incidents: trash.

Bears can be found throughout Grand County, from the Gore Range to the Continental Divide, and the trash created by humans at campsites, in subdivisions and on the streets and alleyways of the local towns often serves as a potent attractant to the black bears of the area. The various communities of Grand County deal with the issue of bears and trash in different ways.


Grand Lake’s geographic location, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, means the quaint mountain community sees some of the highest rates of human-bear conflicts in all of Grand County. According to a town ordinance passed in 2010, all refuse containers in Grand Lake are required to be kept in good repair and to function properly.

Additionally all refuse containers within the town must be kept secured and properly latched except when trash is being added. The town “strongly recommends” citizens utilize trash containers that are either wildlife resistant or wildlife proof unless the container is housed within a wildlife resistant enclosure.

Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White said the town continues to raise the issue at public meetings and other forums in an effort to educate the public on responsible practices to help reduce human-bear conflicts.


Town codes in both Fraser and Winter Park require any containers that receive refuse edible by wildlife to be secured inside homes or garages. If refuse containers cannot be kept inside then the containers must be wildlife proof or be housed within an enclosure approved by the town. Curbside garbage cans can be left outside for pickup only after 6 a.m. the day of pickup and must be taken by inside no later than 8 p.m. the same day.

All refuse containers in both towns must be kept closed and secured except when additional trash is being added. If a container or enclosure is somehow damaged, town codes direct that repairs must be made to the damaged container or enclosure within 48 hours after receiving written notification from the town.


In Granby the town codes do not explicitly relate to bears or wildlife but do regulate how refuse and trash is handled broadly.

According to Granby Police, conflicts between bears and humans in the community are fairly rare, occurring on average roughly one or twice each year.

Granby’s code requires anyone living or conducting business in the town to maintain their premises in a “clean and orderly condition” in order to prevent the accumulation of refuse.


Neither the town of Kremmling nor Grand County government have specific codes related to bear-proof trash containers. County officials noted, however, that many subdivisions and HOAs within unincorporated Grand County have localized requirements for bear-proof trashcans based on recorded plat notes or within their respective covenants.


The need to properly store trash and edible garbage to prevent human-bear conflicts is a recurring theme for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which issues recommendations to Colorado residents through their Be Bear Aware educational program.

“Standard metal or plastic trash cans won’t keep out bears,” according to CPW’s educational brochure on living with bears. “Once bears learn where it’s easy to get at the garbage, they’ll come back again and again.”

State officials stress the need to either never leave garbage out overnight or to utilize bear-proof containers or bear-proof enclosures.

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