COLORADO SPRINGS — The clock is ticking for both residents and businesses located west of Interstate 25. They have until Sunday, March 1, to figure out how they want to handle a new city ordinance that aims to keep bears out of trash cans. People have two options for how they would like to proceed.
Joan Wolford was born in Colorado Springs, and said she has seen countless bears in that time. "Years ago, before we learned our lesson about bears, we had a bear attack the garbage out there and we still have teeth marks in that wood around the trash cans," Wolford said.
Wolford said before this new ordinance, she and her husband already adjusted how they handle their trash to mitigate the effect it would have on bears. "We can't encourage the bears to come around, they are dangerous," Wolford said.
What Wolford has done in the past is one of the two options for people who need to comply with the ordinance. Residents and businesses are allowed to continue using the trash can they already have, as long as it is secured in a garage or shed. It can be brought out to the curb on trash pickup days from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"We live so close to the mountains, obviously, so there's a lot of wildlife around, so we want to respect them and their habitat," said Annie Adams, who also lives west of I-25.
The other option is to purchase a bear-proof trash can. Those with Colorado Springs Code Enforcement said the ordinance is to protect both people, and bears. They said since 2017, 42 bears have been euthanized.
"Colorado Parks and Wildlife did a study sometime ago back in Durango, finding that merely securing trash better can significantly reduce the number of bear sightings in neighborhoods," said Garrett Schumacher, the Code Enforcement Supervisor.
Here's a look at which areas are impacted by the new ordinance:
Wolford said she thinks the ordinance is a good idea but could cause some potential problems. "I think it will be difficult to enforce, and until they actually go around and ticket some people for leaving their garbage out, they won't get too much cooperation... I think there will be a great market for stolen bear-proof trash cans," Wolford said.
An initial violation could cost $100, while three or more would cost $500. Recycling bins do not have to be bear-resistant.