Along with showers, flowers and warmer weather, spring heralds the return of active black bear season in Boulder. Five years ago, in an effort to protect both bears and the public, the Bear Protection Ordinance was adopted by Boulder City Council. It established a Secure Trash Regulation Zone bordered on the east by Broadway, on the north by Sumac and south to the Boulder City limits.
In this area, residents and businesses are required to secure all trash and compost in bear-resistant containers or in a building, house, garage or other enclosed structure until collected. If your carts or containers are outside at any time (even just before pick-up on the morning of collection), the carts or containers must be bear-resistant. Bear-resistant containers must be in working condition, remain closed at all times, and not overflow. There are fines associated with not latching your container. Western Disposal takes the safety of both residents and bears seriously. If you are in the Secure Trash Regulation Zone and have a broken or malfunctioning bear-resistant cart, contact us immediately at 303-444-2037 and it will be repaired or replaced within 24 hours or on the next business day if you call us on a Friday.
According to a City of Boulder staff report published in April of 2018, the Bear Protection Ordinance has been successful in reducing the amount of trash accessible to bears. Based on a 612-house monitoring route west of Broadway, the average number of trash carts strewn was 129 per year prior to the ordinance. That number shrank to a mere 16 per year in the post-ordinance period (2014-2017). Importantly, the average number of bears killed has reduced from one per year (2003-2013) to less than .5 per year (2014-2018).
The report also notes that bears have been moving east in the last five years. In 2017, 26% of the reported 330 sightings have taken place east of Broadway. This is not necessarily a result of secured trash to the west, but more likely a combination of factors including sows seeking safety for their cubs (males will kill cubs in order to send the sow into estrus and mate), availability of other food sources such as apples and berries, and attractants such as bird feeders, backyard chickens and goats and pet food.
Best practices for reducing these attractants include:
- Don’t let your bird feeder become a bear feeder. Hang your bird feeders high off the ground and hang suet and hummingbird feeders between trees not on your deck or porch. Bring you bird feeders in at night and clean up scattered seed below feeders.
- Don’t leave pet food out at night
- Harvest ripe fruit and clean up fruit that has dropped to the ground
- Secure chicken coops, beehives and livestock from bears with reinforced enclosures and electric fence (electric fence requires a permit in the City of Boulder)
Residents outside the Secure Trash Zone also need to be mindful about when they put their trash and compost out for collection. Boulder Ordinance #8161, passed in 2017, states that if you put material out the night before, it must be in a bear-resistant container. Material in unsecured containers cannot be put out on the curb before 5 a.m. on collection day.
Bear-resistant containers are available to residents residing outside the boundaries of the Secure Trash Regulation Zone for $3.00 per month/cart from Western Disposal. Not only do they deter bears, but raccoons, skunks and other nighttime scavengers. They are also effective in keeping your trash secured on windy days.