New ordinance: Wildlife-resistant trash cans may be a bear necessity for Manitou residents

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado Parks and Wildlife said bear encounters in Colorado have gone up steadily since 2005, and so has the bear mortality rate.

A group called “Bear Safe Manitou Springs” is hoping to save the bears by asking City Council to draft an ordinance requiring homeowners to be more responsible with their trash.

Neighbors in town have mixed opinions on the proposed ordinance. The Timberline Baptist Church in Manitou has captured a lot of bears on surveillance video.

“Well, he shows up when were not here, and our surveillance cameras are very good about catching what goes on when we are not around,” said Pastor Dan Parton with Timberline Baptist Church.

Parton said they’ve taken precautions to keep the bear from getting in their trash, but some people who live in Manitou are having a harder time.

“We have bungee cord but he just pushes the lid down inside of it, so there is really no bear proofing our trash cans,” said Rachel Merkley, a Manitou resident.

Now the Bear Smart group asked Manitou City Council on September 5 to consider an ordinance to require people to store garbage in a building to purchase a wildlife-resistant trash can.

“It’s bad for health reasons, safety reasons and it’s bad for safety reasons and it’s bad for the bears,” said Wendy Fortuin with Bear Smart Manitou Springs.

Although many residents thought bear proofing was a necessity, they believe that they can manage it themselves without being required to have certain trash cans.

Those bear proof canisters can be hundreds of dollars with one of the cheapest being sold at Walmart for more than $200.

“Bringing it inside wouldn’t be an option because we have really tiny houses, and that would take a lot of room, with bear safe trash cans. I think it would be a good idea, it would be a little expensive,” said Merkley.

“So I don’ think we need bear proof garbage cans I think we can bear proof them ourselves. I don’t feel like spending $200 on a bear proof garbage can,” said Lee Sloane, Manitou Resident.

“I don’t know how many folks can afford something like that whatever the ordinance may cost, but I do know through their trash companies there are ways to keep bears from getting into your trash,” said Pastor Parton.

The Bear Smart group said though they haven’t secured funding yet, they hope to find some kind of grant money to subsidize the cost for those who can’t afford it.

“We don’t want to put undue stress on residents who just can’t afford them that’s not fair to them,” said Fortuin.

“It’s our responsibility, we live here, we have our businesses here. We have our homes here,” said Pastor Parton.

Additionally, the Bear Smart group says it’s putting a strain on law enforcement with an increase in bear-related calls.

“Our public servants, our code enforcement called out all the time for trash being tipped over, police, for bear human conflicts, that can be mitigated for having an ordinance,” Fortuin said.

For more information on what the Bear Smart group proposed, view the City Council Packet from September 5 and go to page 102.

City Council has directed the City Attorney to draft an ordinance so that they can consider this rule. No decisions have been made just yet, but of course we’ll keep you up to date right here on FOX21 News.

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