By far, the main attractant for bears is unsecured trash. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer mentioned in 2011 that unsecured trash comprised 85% of bear calls to her district that year. Removing trash as the main attractant to bears would go a long way towards reducing bear complaints and in reducing bear activity. Other communities in Colorado have reported that although there is no realistic anticipation of completely removing bears from communities, locking up trash had greatly reduced the number of bears needed to be managed.
“The vast majority of human-bear conflicts can be addressed by decreasing the availability of human garbage.” — Tony Wasley, Nevada Department of Wildlife Director
Three key steps that can greatly reduce the likelihood of bears getting into your trash:
• Store your trash during the week in a secure location or in a bear-resistant trash container.
Store trash in a shed, garage, secured building, structure or in your home where bears cannot access it during the week. However, be aware that bears are very strong animals and can cause extensive damage to structures. Bungie cords can work in some cases, but are ineffective when not used properly and in cases of a determined bear. Do not stockpile garbage. Freeze particularly smelly items, meat, fish, bones and fruit for instance, until trash pick-up or at the least wrap tightly in plastic trash bags to reduce odors. If you lack a secure site to store your trash, try to be inventive in your trash storage. Watch a video of a bear-resistant trash container keeping a young bear out of the trash in Ouray, Colorado.
• Put your trash out the morning of trash collection only, never the night before.
This is by far, the single most important factor in reducing human and bear conflict. Never leave trash out overnight unsecured. Place your trash container out as close to curbside pick-up as possible. A study in Arizona in the early 1990’s found that residents who left their garbage out overnight had a 70% chance of a bear visit, whereas residents who stored their trash in a garage until the morning of trash collection reduced the chance of a bear visit to 2%.
• Occasionally clean your trash container with ammonia to reduce odors.
Clean your trash container periodically with a solution of ammonia and hot water to reduce odors that attract bears. A spray bottle works well. Occasionally tossing an ammonia-soaked rag in with your trash helps as well.
“Unsecured trash is the principal cause of the increase in wildlife activity in the City.” — Colorado Division of Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Patt Dorsey, 2007
“The only permanent solution is removal of the attractant (trash). It would probably take care of 90 percent of the problem.” — Carl Lackey, Nevada Department of Wildlife
City residents and businesses with damaged bear-resistant trash containers should contact the city at 970-375-5004 to schedule repairs.