Colorado Springs west-side residents must either buy a bear-resistant trash can or abide by specific trash collection times, the City Council decided Tuesday.

With the unanimous approval of two ordinances, the council cemented a bear management map and locked in requirements for the bear-resistant trash cans within the mapped area encompassing most of the west side.

The bear-resistant cans probably won’t eliminate human contact with bears, Frank McGee, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told the council last month. Rather, they’re meant to curb the availability of food that bears can forage from human sources.

Since April 1, El Paso County has had at least 480 reported bear sightings, McGee said. Two bears were moved, and five were euthanized, he said.

Bears are attracted to garbage, though it can cause health problems and encourage a dependence on trash rather than natural food sources, he said.

This time of year, bears are active about 20 hours a day, striving to eat up to 20,000 calories daily, during their hyperphagia phase of preparation to hibernate through winter.

Bear-resistant trash cans would strongly discourage the animals from foraging in neighborhoods, he said.

The new mandate takes effect March 1.

Those who use trash cans owned by waste companies can upgrade their receptacles for a monthly fee.

The individual company sets the amount. Trash cans that meet the bear-resistant requirements can also be bought online or at local stores.

But those who don’t want to upgrade their trash cans — or can’t afford the switch — can place the receptacles out for collection no earlier than 5 a.m. and bring them in no later than 7 p.m. on pickup day.

That timing should keep most edible trash unavailable to bears during their most active hours, McGee told the council.

Some exceptions are allowed for those who work outside those hours, though. Details can be found at

Many residents keep their trash inside a garage until pickup day and won’t be affected by the new ordinances, Council President Pro Tem Tom Strand said.

A first violation of the ordinance can net a $100 fine; a second violation, $250; and third and subsequent offenses $500 fines. Neighbor complaints will spur response to such violations.

“We’re not going to go around to neighborhoods and look for dumped garbage and for the fact that they don’t have a bear-proof can,” said Council President Richard Skorman. “But if there are complaints, then code enforcement will go out. … We want this to be as much about education as anything else.”

But code enforcement will strive for voluntary compliance and issue warnings first, said Mitch Hammes, the city’s neighborhood services manager and head of housing code enforcement.

A similar ordinance has worked in Manitou Springs since it took effect in January, said Nancy Wilson, an organizer with the Bear Smart Task Force.

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