Pitkin County adopts doorknob standards for bear country | SkyHiNews.com

Pitkin County adopts doorknob standards for bear country

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to amend the county’s land-use code to ban bear-friendly doorknobs.

The amendment requires solid, round-handled doorknobs rather than the lever variety on exterior doors on all new homes in bear habitat.

The new rule won approval on first reading, though some commissioners conceded the requirement smacked of over-regulation.

Kevin Wright, district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, urged the new rules.

Wright and his DOW officers are responsible for euthanizing bears that break into homes, noted Commissioner Michael Owsley.

“That’s a burden I don’t want to put on anyone,” he said. “If over-regulation means saving a few bears’ lives, I’m perfectly willing to do that.”

“It’s a small measure, but I think we should do it,” Commissioner Rachel Richards agreed.

Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper questioned why the rule wouldn’t be applied throughout the unincorporated parts of the county.

“What area of Pitkin County isn’t bear habitat these days?” she said.

Clapper was unconvinced that round doorknobs would make a difference, suggesting some bears will flatten them and turn them anyway.

“Our bears are smarter than the average bear. It’s too bad some members of our community aren’t smarter than the average bear,” she said, blaming humans for enticing bears.

Commissioners wondered what the DOW wants to do about sliding doors; Lance Clarke, assistant director of the Community Development Department, said he would ask wildlife officials about latches on those doors before the ordinance comes back to commissioners for a second reading and final approval.

The new requirement will be included in a section of the code outlining development standards in wildlife areas. It addresses other measures with an eye toward bears, such as requiring bear-resistant trash containers or enclosures. It also dictates placement of bird feeders and prohibits pet food from being left outside, among other provisions.

Homeowners will not be required to retrofit their doors with new doorknobs, Clarke said. The regulation will only apply to new construction. Exemptions are made for doors that must meet disability standards.