Wildlife in the Boulder city limits and along the urban interface sometimes conflict with human activities. This situation creates the need for a comprehensive, long-term plan to guide management of wildlife in Boulder's urban areas. The Boulder community, City Council, Environmental Advisory Board, and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board worked together to develop a Urban Wildlife Management Plan (UWMP) to help address concerns about prairie dogs, bears, mountain lions and other wildlife issues.

Co-Existing with Urban Wildlife

The purpose of the UWMP is to establish a set of policies and guidelines for managing wildlife within Boulder. The intent of the plan is to integrate urban wildlife management in the Boulder Valley with the existing and emerging plans and policies of the Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department.

The UWMP establishes a framework for making urban wildlife management decisions, provides direction on regulatory and program changes, and outlines a set of actions for long-term management of human-wildlife conflicts.

Deterring Bears in Urban Areas

Bears have always been a part of life in Boulder. The city’s urban wildlife conservation project aims to ensure bears and humans can safely co-exist. Through education, awareness and laws, the city is working to limit the food available to bears so they are not drawn to urban areas.

Bear Protection Ordinance

The city's 2017 Bear Protection Ordinance 8161 aims to protect bears by eliminating access to food rewards found in trash and compost bins. The ordinance requires:

  • Anywhere in the city: Bear-resistant containers are required if trash and compost are put out the night before pickup.
  • West of Broadway and south of Sumac Avenue: All compost and trash carts, containers, dumpsters or enclosures must be bear-resistant or stored in a building, house, garage, shed or other enclosure until emptied by a trash hauler.
    • View the below map of the area where bear-resistant containers are mandatory at all times.
  • Frequently Asked Questions - Bear Protection Ordinance
Bear protection zone map

Noncompliance Fines

Code enforcement officers will issue fines for noncompliance, including not latching containers, and violators will not receive warnings. Officers may issue tickets in-person or give citations to property owners via email or printed notification. The fines are:

  • $100 for the first offense
  • $250 for the second offense
  • $500 for the third offense.

Please note yard waste such as leaves and branches are not considered bear attractants and can be put out for collection in leaf-litter bags or bundled with string. If compost containers only contain yard waste, they must still be latched. Also, bear-resistant carts and recycling containers can be put out for collection after 8pm the night before pick-up anywhere in the city.

Reducing Urban Bear Attractants

To help protect bears, community members are encouraged to reduce potential bear attractants. This includes:

  • Using bear-resistant containers in working condition or storing waste in an enclosed space
  • Harvesting ripe fruit
  • Securing and protecting backyard livestock such as chickens, goats and bees. These animals are bear attractants and need to be housed in secure structures. Electric fencing* is another way to protect livestock from bears.
  • Feeding birds in winter months only

*Electric fencing requires a permit in the City of Boulder.

Get or Fix a Bear Resistant Cart

Get a Cart

Bear-resistant carts are similar to most trash and compost carts currently used in Boulder, but are reinforced with special latches. Carts that meet the bear-resistant criteria have been tested and rated by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

Examples of Bear-resistant Carts That Meet the Ordinance Requirements

  • BearSaver Grizzly Poly Cart models (PC32-G, PC65-G, and PC95-G).
  • Bearicuda Basic, Classic, and Stealth models
    (PAK130, PAK132, PAK164, PAK195, STL135, STL264, and STL296)

Fix a Cart

The city requires bear-resistant containers to be in working condition, however they can break. If a cart is broken it must be fixed. For Western Disposal customers, call 303-444-2037 and request a replacement cart. Carts are generally replaced within 24 hours. If you are a One-Way Trash or Republic customer and you have purchased your cart, you are responsible for the repairs or replacement.

Locations Outside of Cart Zone

Would you like a bear-resistant container even though you do not live in the area where it is required?

  • Contact your trash hauler for the services they provide with bear- resistant container.
  • You do not have to live in the area it is required to obtain a bear-resistant cart.

Construct an Enclosure

How can I make a bear-resistant waste enclosure?

Report Unsecured Trash


Report a Prairie Dog Issue

Contact Us

If prairie dogs are causing nuisance problems for you or the uses of your property, do not attempt to poison or kill the animals.

  1. Private Property
    • Animal Protection at 303-441-3333
  2. Open Space Property
    • Heather Swanson, Open Space and Mountain Parks, 720-564-2054
  3. Open Space Property
  4. Parks and Recreation Property
    • Joy Master at 303-413-7261

Prairie Dogs on Development Site

If you have development plans for your property that may be in conflict with prairie dogs on the site, or if you have any questions about prairie dog lethal control permits, contact Val Matheson at mathesonv@bouldercolorado.gov or 303-441-3004.

Prairie Dog Lethal Control Permits

City ordinance requires landowners to obtain a permit from the city before using any form of lethal control on prairie dogs. In order to obtain a permit, the landowner must demonstrate the following:

  • A reasonable effort has been made to relocate the prairie dogs to another site;
  • The most humane method of lethal control possible will be used;
  • The landowner has an adequate plan designed to prevent the reentry of prairie dogs onto the land after the prairie dogs are lawfully removed.

In addition, one of the following conditions must exist

  • The land on which the prairie dogs are located will be developed within fifteen months of the date of the application and the continued presence of prairie dogs would make such development impractical or impossible;
  • A principal use of the land will be adversely impacted in a significant manner by the presence of prairie dogs on the site; or
  • Established landscaping or an open space feature established and installed prior to any prairie dog colonization will be adversely impacted by the establishment of new prairie dog colonies.

The waiting period after the submission of an application is a minimum of three to five months. If the city determines that relocation alternatives exist during or after the initial three-to-five month period, it may delay issuing the permit for an additional 12 months in order to allow relocation to occur.

The basic administrative fee for a lethal control permit is $1,500. An applicant for a prairie dog lethal control permit must also pay a fee of $1,200 per acre of active prairie dogs habitat lost, pro-rated for any partial acres of lost habitat.

Wildlife Contacts

Report Sightings or Get Information

  • For information, resources, or to report an urban wildlife sighting online, visit Inquire Boulder.

Animals in your yard

  • If you currently have a bear or mountain lion in your yard and would like assistance, call the Boulder Police Department at 303-441-3333.

Educational Programs

  • For educational programs, call the Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department at 303-441-3440 or visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.