Bear-proof trash cans helping Durango keep bears out

Posted at: 08/15/2014 4:32 PM
Updated at: 08/15/2014 6:49 PM
By: Devin Neeley, KOB Eyewitness News 4

DURANGO, Colorado -- It's that time of the year again - bears are trying to fatten up before hibernation, usually trying to put on 3-5 pounds of fat a day. In Durango, they've been coming down from the mountains to raid trash cans and cars.

Two broken pickets on Alan Batiste's back fence are evidence enough for him to know he's dealing with bears.

"The first encounter, he got in the fence but we scared him away, the second time a week later, he had gotten into the trash and pushed it over," said Batiste.

He says that any close encounter with a bear is too close, which is why he is so happy to have a new bear-proof trash can from Bear Smart Durango.

The company has provided, through grant money, 22 bear-proof trash cans for the neighborhood.

"This program is buying time and cutting off the food attractant at its source," said Bear Smart Durango's executive director, Bryan Peterson.

The goal is keep trash from open trash cans from becoming bear food.

"Once you reduce human-to-bear foods, you really cut down on human-bear conflict."

That conflict, Peterson says, can even include bears breaking into cars and trucks for food.

"Half a cup of coffee, a candy bar, something pretty benign…bears learn to get a food reward from that one vehicle and they apply that to other vehicles as well - even vehicles that don't have food."

Batiste said the trash cans are working so far.

"We haven't seen the bear in a week and a half."

For now, the bear proof cans are on-loan until homeowners can get one from their waste company or buy one. The cans run about $200.