Bear-proof Trash Containers

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One of our most valuable natural resources is our wildlife. Bears, coyotes, mountain lions and other animals roam our neighborhoods looking for food, especially when their natural food supply becomes limited. In order to reduce human/wildlife interaction and protect wildlife from being harmed or destroyed, it is extremely important that we never feed wild animals, either intentionally or through improperly-stored garbage.

In 2007, the county commissioners passed Ordinance 07-001 which prohibits the feeding of wildlife and requires that garbage be kept within a wildlife proof/resistant container or enclosure. The Eagle County Wildlife Protection and Waste Disposal Ordinance set standards for waste receptacles and requires property owners or occupants in designated neighborhoods to purchase and use proper trash receptacles. The ordinance requires that all trash, residential and commercial, be placed in a wildlife-resistant trash container when not inside a residence or business and prohibits placing these containers out for collection before 6 a.m. on collection day. The trash container must be removed from the collection area by 7 p.m. that evening. We strongly recommended that trash remain inside a garage or other locked structure at all other times.

Please check the questions and answers below for further details concerning the ordinance and its enforcement. If your question is not answered here, contact Code Enforcement for additional information.
Bear-Proof Trash Containers
Where does the ordinance apply?
Currently, the ordinance applies only to those areas in unincorporated Eagle County listed in Exhibit A of the ordinance. This includes West Vail, Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Beaver Creek, and Lake Creek. Eby Creek and Brush Creek Rd. in Eagle, and the entire Eagle County portion of the Roaring Fork Valley are notably exempt from the ordinance. These areas can be added to the ordinance in the future if necessary.
What does "certified wildlife-resistant container" mean?
A compliant container must be certified by the Living With Wildlife Foundation (LWWF) as bear-resistant. The LWWF partners with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee to test container designs for effectiveness. The LWWF uses star ratings to indicate the level of resistance. Eagle County's ordinance requires that a container resist a bear attack for ninety minutes, which is equivalent to the LWWF's "3-star" rating.
Can I make my own "bear-proof" container?
If you wish to make your own container, it must be certified by the Living With Wildlife Foundation to comply with the ordinance. This entails having your design tested at Yellowstone by the LWWF to verify the level of resistance it can withstand. Bungee cords and similar attempts to keep wildlife out are generally ineffective. If you must keep your trash container outside, the best method of preventing wildlife encounters is to keep food items and attractants out of the container until trash day. Regularly washing out the container with a bleach solution is also recommended.
Where can I purchase a container?
Locally, certified containers are available from Vail Honeywagon, Waste Management, and the Vail Valley Ace Hardware. Some products are also available on the Internet. When ordering from an Internet vendor, however, you should verify that the container has been approved by the LWWF.
Why is an ordinance necessary?
The ordinance was passed primarily to address the bears that are destroyed each year in Eagle County because they are conditioned to obtain food from residential areas. Whether it prefers bird feeders, grills, or garbage cans, the bear has learned that easy meals await. Adult sows teach this behavior to their cubs, and generations of bears are threatened. The ordinance is intended to break this cycle by preventing future generations of bears from learning that trash is a viable option as a food source. If feeding in residential areas becomes more difficult than feeding in the bear's traditional habitat, bear encounters will decline. Bears that are conditioned to feed on garbage lose their fear of humans and ultimately become dangerous. Please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for more information on living in bear county.
What are the fines?
The first citation for a non-compliant container is $100. A second citation carries a fine of $200, and a third, $500. Penalties continue to accrue for each subsequent citation.
Is there financial assistance available for those that cannot afford a wildlife resistant container?
At this time, Eagle County does not have funds available to assist in the purchase of a compliant container.
How does the enforcement process work?
During bear season, neighborhoods where the ordinance applies are regularly patrolled by code enforcement staff. Residents with non-compliant containers are issued a Notice of Violation, and a case associated with that property is entered in Code Enforcement records. The case remains open until a compliant container is observed at the property. Code enforcement also responds to specific complaints concerning problem addresses or areas forwarded by neighbors or Division of Wildlife staff.
What do I do if I receive a Notice of Violation?
Purchase a compliant container within the specified time frame and fax or email a receipt to code enforcement. The Notice of Violation and associated fine will be closed if prompt action is taken.
Why do bears eat garbage?
Bears have tremendous caloric needs and can consume 20,000 or more calories per day to prepare for hibernation the following winter. They prefer to acquire as many calories with as little effort as possible. Residential garbage meets this criteria well. Rather than foraging for hours, a bear can acquire a high caloric intake in a very short period of time by ingesting the food remnants in a typical residential container.
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