News, Analysis and Opinion for the Informed Boulder Resident
Monday July 24th 2017

Support the Blue Line

Subscribe to the Blue Line

That's what she said

city council transportation energy municipalization xcel housing urban planning april fools bicycles climate action election 2011 density boulder county affordable housing open space renewables agriculture CU local food election 2013 climate change development youth jefferson parkway pedestrian election 2015 preservation Rocky Flats BVSD immigration recreation mountain bikes GMOs transit urban design boards and commissions farming decarbonization plan boulder fracking fires wildlife colorado politics architecture smart regs downtown new era colorado journalism plutonium homeless transit village parking radioactive waste ghgs natural gas commuting coal height limits rental planning board april fools 2015 walkability historic preservation energy efficiency diversity Neighborhoods historic district North Boulder education students land use population growth gardens arts flood election 2010 growth solar University Hill bus zoning taxes water supply water quality nutrition library RTD election 2012 groundwater safety electric utility bike lane sprawl flood plain affairs of the heart organic april fools 2016 mayor election wetlands zero waste planning reserve hazardous waste politics county commissioners hogan-pancost obama transportation master plan renewable energy electric vehicle ballot right-sizing street design longmont Mapleton solar panels PV comprehensive plan recycling climate smart loan colorado legislature bears golden diagonal plaza flood mitigation blue line congestion conservation easement pesticide epa boulder junction food inequality drought election 2016 community cycles road diet flooding bus rapid transit automobile children campaign finance daily camera Newlands league of women voters ecocycle BVCP ken wilson PUC community sam weaver david miller climate change deniers wind power bob bellemare boulder creek bsec contamination kevin hotaling boulder crime suzanne jones tim plass john tayer arizona mlk EV green points technology Orchard Grove Whittier civil rights west tsa public spaces marijuana

No Garbage for Bears


By

I have to admit I was a little shocked.  I got the report of a small black bear, brown in color, crossing Pearl near 5th St.  I went to investigate, to see what may have attracted the yearling bear to this part of town.  What I saw was alley upon alley full of garbage, compost, and recycling bins, one after another, just waiting to be turned over and picked through and it wasn’t even garbage day.

Male yearling bear that had been frequenting garbage cans in the Table Mesa and Baseline areas of west Boulder. This bear was eventually tranquillized in Louisville and relocated to Park County. He now has a set of green ear tags.

One of the commandments of living in bear country was being violated…by everyone.  Keep your garbage secured until the day of pick up. I work as a District Wildlife Manager for the Division of Wildlife and my district is north Boulder.  I started in this district in January of 2009.  Due to a combination of naiveté and limited bear incidents in the city last year, not only did I not realize this is how much of west Boulder handles their garbage, but I found it more surprising than many of the people around me.  The more I talk to residents, other officers, and city personnel, the more I understand why this is and the more I feel it is necessary to change the way west Boulder handles their garbage.

There is wildlife everywhere in Boulder.  Bears, like our other opportunistic urban wildlife species, will go wherever they can and eat what they can find.  Food scraps in garbage and compost bins provide an easy and abundant source of calories for bears, though not a healthy one.  A five minute walk to Mountain Parks and Open Space property for west Boulder residents is also a five minute walk for the wildlife to come into the city, including bears.

The problem with garbage is not the result of a public that doesn’t care.  Boulder is full of people who are concerned about wildlife and demonstrate daily their willingness to go out of their way to benefit wildlife.  There are a few reasons why most west Boulder residents handle their garbage the way they do.  One big one is that many residents simply do not have an acceptable place to store their garbage throughout the week (no shed or garage).  There are bear-proof garbage cans available, but many residents either cannot afford or are unwilling to take on the additional cost.   Some residents painstakingly store any food-type garbage in their house until pick up day, and I have no doubt that helps.  I do, however, doubt that this is something everyone is willing to do.

There are also a few reasons why this problem hasn’t been addressed already.  For one thing,  even if all of the garbage was locked down tomorrow,  there would still be attractants drawing bears into the city in the form of bird feeders, back yard fountains and pools, ripe fruit on the trees, and hobby bee hives.  Is it really reasonable to ask residents to pay for a bear-proof garbage container when the bears will come into town anyway because of bird feeders?  I recognize there are other attractants adding to this problem, but I see the garbage as the largest issue and one solution which would have the most impact.  Another reason this problem has yet to be solved is just a result of our busy lives and the many issues our communities face: we are reactionary, and if we don’t see the problem for ourselves we often fail to give it the priority it deserves.

I can look at this issue and state that garbage is a priority because throughout the summer and fall I spend a lot of time with bears.  I spend so much time laughing at bears, crying for bears, talking about bears, and educating on bears, that it is easy for me to make the connection between bears and garbage and dead bears.  When the Division of Wildlife relocates a bear from the city, the bear gets an ear tag.  If the bear is in a position where we feel we need to relocate it again, following strict state-wide policy, that bear is put down.  I truly feel we can prevent that bear from coming into town in the first place if we can convince it that people and the city have nothing, no garbage, to offer.

Since this issue is widespread, it is going to take a solution that is both reasonable and practical.  I think no one can determine what solution is best other than the residents this issue affects.  I encourage everyone to not only share feedback with me in the upcoming months but to also become involved in the city’s efforts by participating in the creation of the Urban Wildlife Management Plan.  Information on the plan can be found at www.boulderwildlifeplan.net.  We can and should generate a remedy for the problem of unsecured garbage, and if we do we take a crucial step toward making Boulder a more bear-friendly city.

Rate this article: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

What do you think? Leave a comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.