When grizzly bears in Montana can’t break into bear-resistant trash cans, yet black bears in Durango can, it raises the question – what’s going on here?
Bryan Peterson, executive director of the nonprofit BearSmart, said some of Durango’s local, food-conditioned bears have learned how to break into the certified bear-resistant cans – a disturbing sign of how the animal has become accustomed to urban life.
“They are chewing through them, bending the metal and getting into them,” he said. “That’s just a sign that we’ve taught way too many bears how to do this.”
For a trash can to be certified as “bear-resistant,” it must withstand the attempts of a grizzly bear in captivity in Montana trying to break in. The ones provided by the city of Durango have done just that.
“Bear-resistant cans have tended to work well in most cases, but we have seen more failures than we like,” said Peterson. “We’re having more failures than we should be.”
Steve Barkley, a code enforcement officer with the city of Durango, said the cans tend to work well as long as residents properly latch the lock and do not overstuff the bin.
“Over the years, I’ve only seen one can destroyed by an extremely hungry bear,” he said. “But other than that, they kick them around, jump up and down on them, but I haven’t seen any gain access to the cans that were latched properly.”
However, Peterson said this is a growing problem. He helped one homeowner install an electric fence around their bear-resistant can to avoid more break ins.
In a perfect world, Peterson said “bear-proof” certified cans, which are made out of metal, would be the status quo – as it is in Snowmass. In the meantime, he just hopes more residents obtain what’s available.
The city of Durango provides bear-resistant cans for an additional $4 per month for four years applied to the regular trash collection fee. After a wildlife encounter with trash and a courtesy notice from the city, residents are then required to lock up their trash in the bear-resistant bins.