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Mind your trash, the bears are back

Crested Butte bruin has figured out bear-proof trashcans

by Mark Reaman

It has been a pretty quiet summer so far in terms of bears coming into Crested Butte but that could change. While few bears were spotted in town during the early summer weeks, there has been a recent rise in activity.

“Crested Butte just started to see bear activity in town a few weeks ago,” said Crested Butte’s chief marshal Mike Reily. “At the moment the bear seems to be coming off The Bench on the south side of town and hitting the center of town the hardest.”

In years past, bears in Crested Butte would almost be regular tourist attractions as they would sometimes end up in trees after a night of Dumpster-diving in the town. Crowds of people would gather to watch the bruins until the bear decided to take off to the nearby forest.

But consistent good behavior by visitors and residents has helped stem the wave of bears attracted to town for easy meals. Dumpsters are locked. People don’t leave out bird feeders and dog food is secured inside instead of in an open garage.

Still, the bears can be smart. Reily said the most recent bear coming to town has figured out the trick to opening some bear-proof trashcans. “So far, we have had no house entries,” said Reily. “However, this recent bear is pretty adept at getting into bear-proof garbage cans with any weakness in the latching mechanism. It is very important that people put out only functioning cans and don’t set them curbside before 6 a.m. on the days that garbage is collected. At this point we are having pretty typical unsophisticated bear activity but we don’t want that to change by having him or her associate town with food. That process has historically ramped up quickly if people don’t secure their food and garbage; and it never ends well for the bear.”

What Reily means by that is that if a bear becomes accustomed to people and food in town they become considered a dangerous nuisance. While the local safety officials, including the marshals and officers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, have attempted to trap and relocate bears, if the bears return too often, they are marked to be destroyed.

“Currently we have been successful in harassing the bear with rubber buckshot and cracker rounds so it leaves town,” explained Reily. “The exception to this is when a bear climbs a tree. This is a natural defense mechanism for bears. So if we were to continue to harass them so they did not feel comfortable climbing, that might provoke an attack from a cornered bear. If a bear does climb a tree, the best thing to do is to give them some space so they can climb down unnoticed and slip back into the woods.”

The best action humans can take is not do things that attract bears to town in the first place. Make sure all bear-proof containers are secured inside until at least 6 a.m. on the morning of pickup. Never put out unsecured containers such as bags or boxes, which inevitably get picked open by birds and other scavengers. Make sure freezers, refrigerators and other food storage containers are off of porches and behind locked or unlevered doors. Do not store food in vehicles or rocket boxes. Locked or unlocked, bears can get in and will do extensive damage.

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