Bear watch

Public Works director and amateur wildlife photographer Shawn Williams snapped this photo of a bear in Columbine Park one early morning last month.

Here’s what you missed from the Feb. 23 meeting of the Buena Vista board of trustees;

1 Kevin Madler, Buena Vista wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, gave the board an update on the increasing presence of bears in town.

Trustees agreed not to impose any new penalties related to trash, but instead focused on addressing the problem through education – namely, reminding people not to leave their trash out overnight, but instead putting trash out on the curb the morning of scheduled pickup service.

“This is a discussion that Kevin has been having with our staff, mainly (code enforcement officer ) Grant (Bryans) and (public works director) Shawn Williams have been having for the past couple winter seasons,” said town administrator Phillip Puckett.

Madler said that about 20 bears now range through the town of Buena Vista. That population had doubled in 2020, with bears being driven out of their usual habitats higher up in the mountains by an increased presence of people, and drawn into town by the lure of trash.

“They’re being raised here, born here. Bears remember that. They’re an opportunistic animal, and once they’ve been on food sources, they will go back to that no matter what,” Madler said.

Madler said that one bear he had trapped and relocated to Trinidad in 2017 has now returned to the Buena Vista area.

“Trapping’s not our best option, we need to learn how to co-exist,” Madler said.

At Columbine Park alone, Madler observed six bears frequenting the area to search through the trash cans in the area, known to some residents as K’s Park.

That issue was “pretty much solved overnight,” Madler said, when Public Works removed the smaller trash cans and replaced them with a single dumpster.

“That being said, those bears didn’t leave town, they just went to other areas,” Madler said. “There wasn’t a place in town where I wasn’t getting calls, whether it was over by Baylor, South Main, East Main, West Main.”

Through game cameras, Madler observed seven bears coming in and out of town every night along Cottonwood Creek.

The apple trees at Turner Farm are also a popular dining spot for BV’s ursine visitors.

“Last summer we had over 10 bears in town at one time,” Madler said.

Madler said that the practice of only putting trash out the morning of trash collection reduces bear-trash conflicts by over 80 percent.

“That’s your best strategy. To put your trash cans out the morning of,” he said.

Williams said that public works is currently value-shopping for designs of trash receptacles that keep bears out and are aesthetically pleasing. His department is currently looking at about 12 to 15 new cans produced by a local fabricator in a similar style to the receptacles on Main Street.

In the meantime, though, the message the town wants to get out is don’t leave your trash out overnight.

“I know I can see it going down West Main. You can tell people put out their trash the night before, and when I go to work in the morning, every trash can is turned over,” said Mayor Duff Lacy. “People just have to grasp the fact that if they put it out the night before, it’s going to get taken care of.”

2 The board approved the site plan for Phase 2 of the Farm, which will seek to add 51 single-family attached and detached units and one multi-family lot to the 20.9-acre development in the southeast part of town.

Phase 1 of the development, approved in 2017, consists of 90 attached and detached units.

3 The board also approved a transfer of $150,000 from the Central Colorado Regional Airport to the Southeast Colorado Regional Airport in Lamar.

The transfer is part of a program in which a ring of airports each donate funds to a single member of the group so that airport can fund larger-scale improvements.

The recipient of the funds rotates each year. Next year, Buena Vista will be due to receive $600,000 through the program.

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