Posted on the town of Ridgway, Colo., website is a notice that, in part, reads:
“A few bears have been sighted in Ridgway and they have found open trash. This means they will likely hang around town for these food sources.”
Ridgway is located in southwest Colorado in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, where black bears are among the local wildlife.
In fact, a bear made its way into town in search of food and found opportunity in solid waste containers.
“This past summer we had a resident bear accessing a significant number of both residential and commercial containers town-wide,” says Ridgway Town Manager Jen Coates.
While Coates says she is unaware of any adverse bear/human incidents in Ridgway, containers of trash were disturbed.
“According to our local wildlife experts, the early frost seriously impacted the acorn crop and other food sources for the bears, so many communities in the region had bears looking for food in urban areas,” she says.
The typical diet of black bears is mainly grasses, roots, nuts, berries and insects. The problem, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, is that if bears find human food even once, it can change their habits to seek food from human residences and trash cans. On the flip side, that means if a bear does not find abundant food, it will move on to other areas.
In response, Coates introduced an ordinance amending Chapter 9 of the Ridgway Municipal Code mandating animal-resistant trash containers for all residential and commercial properties within the Town of Ridgway. The ordinance also defines animal-resistant containers and dumpsters.
According to the ordinance, as the wildlife gains access to trash, “it brings them closer to our homes, businesses and public spaces, creating a potentially dangerous situation for animals and people and creating a nuisance for the community by distributing trash.”
The town has received numerous complaints on bears in town accessing garbage, and birds distributing trash from open trash receptacles into the streets and public places, according to the proposed ordinance.
The animal-resistant containers will prevent access to the garbage by bears and other wildlife. Containers holding yard trimmings such as grass, leaves and branches will be excluded from the proposed ordinance.
The cost of the animal-resistant containers, says Coates, is $149 plus shipping for a 64-gallon container, the cost of which will be the responsibility of the residents and businesses. All trash haulers providing refuse containers to a resident, including Ridgway’s hauler, Bruin Waste, must supply the animal-resistant containers to customers.
Bruin has indicated they can supply containers, says Coates. Residents also may source their own.
Additionally, the ordinance says council has discussed the necessity of requiring animal-resistant cans and containers for a number of years and the past couple of years have seen an increase in wildlife access to garbage throughout Ridgway.
For those in violation of the proposed ordinance, warnings and penalties may be incurred. Current municipal code provides for enforcement of the Ridgway Municipal Code including issuance of Notices of Violation and Citations for violations of the Ridgway Municipal Code, with penalties assessed from $150 for the first citation, $500 for the second and up to $999 for the third violation.
For commercial customers, the ordinance would require dumpsters be animal-resistant and screened by fencing. Animal-resistant dumpster enclosure means an enclosed structure consisting of four sides and a secure metal door or cover with a latching device designed to prevent access by wildlife. If a container or enclosure is damaged, allowing access by wildlife, repairs must be made within 72 hours after written notification by a town official.