Tickets For Trash
Homeowners and businesses that continually leave trash and other attractants within reach of bears can now receive a ticket from Division of Wildlife officers under an emergency regulation approved Thursday by the Colorado Wildlife Commission. The regulation becomes effective immediately.
The regulation was adopted at the Commission's meeting in Las Animas. It came at the request of wildlife officers because a small number of homeowners and businesses have repeatedly ignored their requests to keep trash, food, bird seed, pet food and other attractants out of the reach of bears.
"This regulation is not designed for the everyday problems we normally deal with," explained Mark Konishi, the Division's southeastern regional manager. "This will help us with flagrant violators who refuse to keep trash away from bears or leave sacks of bird seed out just so they and their friends can watch bears."
Konishi said the emergency ordinance isn't a replacement for local ordinances that prohibit food and other attractants from being left within bears' reach and require that Dumpsters and other trash containers be bear-proof. The Division is urging local communities and counties to adopt such ordinances, which have already proven to be highly effective in the Roaring Fork Valley in Snowmass Village and Aspen.
While Colorado has had fewer people-bear conflicts this year than last, the southern Front Range from just south of Denver to the New Mexico border and west to Salida has had the worst year in more than a quarter-century. Dry spring conditions and a late spring freeze drastically reduced the acorn and berry crop, forcing bears to move farther to find food. When bears find trash or other attractants that have been left out they take advantage of the situation, which results in conflicts with humans.
Bears will continue to forage for food into October as they prepare for hibernation. The Division is asking all Coloradans and visitors to the state to avoid leaving food, trash and other attractants where bears can find them.
The Commission also approved an emergency regulation, effective for 90 days, that prohibits the importation of captive deer and elk into Colorado unless they are from a facility certified to be free of chronic wasting disease for at least 18 months. The disease-free status would have to be proven by laboratory examinations of tissues from all dead animals from the source herd. The regulation was enacted to prevent animals infected with chronic wasting disease from inadvertently being brought into the state.
The disease, which is believed to spread through animal-to-animal contact, is endemic in deer and elk in portions of northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and extreme northwestern Nebraska. Division wildlife managers, working in partnership with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, are working to prevent the disease from spreading to other areas.
The Division had issued additional hunting licenses to reduce deer herds in areas where the infection rate is highest to determine if the lower population density reduces prevalence of the disease. In other areas, where only a small number of infected animals have been found, animals will be removed in hopes of eliminating the disease from the area.
The Commission decided against a proposal from the Colorado Mule Deer Association to award preference points for deer and elk licenses to hunters who submit pairs of coyote ears in an attempt to reduce predation on mule deer. Division wildlife managers recommended against the bounties, because they could put those submitting ears ahead of other hunters who have obtained their preference points over the years when they unsuccessfully applied for a limited big game license.
Division carnivore specialist Jerry Apker also told the Commission that bounties in other states have not proven to be effective and have been strongly criticized both by hunting organizations and environmental groups.
Instead, the Commission directed the Division to draft regulations that would allow big game hunters to take coyotes while hunting big game without buying a separate license. The Commission also asked Division wildlife managers to formulate contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct coyote control if such steps are necessary. Apker told the Commission that there currently are no areas of the state where coyote predation is having such a major impact on other wildlife species that such controls are necessary.
The Commission also adopted regulations to allow field trails and dog training in state wildlife areas and it established use regulations for all visitors to those wildlife areas.