The City of Boulder welcomes your feedback. Use our Inquire Boulder customer service tool to tell us what’s on your mind.

  • Urban Wildlife
  • Urban Wildlife Management Plan
  • Wildlife Questions
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Wildlife Issue or Sighting

Urban Wildlife

Urban Wildlife

In recent years, bears have become more reliant on trash as a food source. By leaving their natural habitat to scavenge for food, bears are unintentionally putting themselves in danger. In 2013 alone, four bears were killed in Boulder due to public safety concerns. Securing trash and compost storage will help protect bears, increase public safety, and allow bears and humans to better co-exist.

New City Ordinance to Secure Trash and Protect Bears

On March 18, 2014, City Council adopted a new ordinance that requires all trash and compost in the Secure Trash Regulation Zone pdf to be secured from bears at all times until collected by a trash hauler.

The ordinance applies to all properties west of Broadway to the western city limits, south of Sumac Avenue to the southern city limits. This area has experienced the majority of bear activity during the past 10 years.

In summer 2014, implementation of the new trash storage requirements will begin in areas with Alley Trash Pick-up pdf. Implementation in the entire Secure Trash Regulation Zone pdf is expected later in 2014.

Secure Your Waste

All carts, containers, dumpsters or enclosures must be bear-resistant.
Waste must be stored in a building, house, garage, shed or other enclosed structure.

Bear-Resistant Carts
Bear-resistant carts are similar to most trash and compost carts used in Boulder today, but are reinforced with special latches. Carts that meet the “bear-resistant” criteria have been tested and rated by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Bear-resistant carts must remain closed at all times and not overflow.

The containers below are examples of certified bear-resistant carts that meet the City of Boulder's ordinance for securing trash and compost.

  • 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)

Education and Enforcement

  • The fine for a first offense is $250.
  • Code enforcement officers may issue tickets in-person or deliver citations to property owners via email, mail, or printed notification.

Enhanced Education and Code Enforcement
The city also enhancing education and enforcement efforts by:

  • focusing education on rental properties, where resident turnover is typically higher;
  • adding one to two code enforcement officers; and
  • having code enforcement officers check for violations at each address twice per week during four months of the bear season, which extends from March 15 through Nov. 1.

Potential Cost Estimates

The City of Boulder regulates trash service requirements, but trash hauling services are offered by private companies. Currently, the city has received cost estimates for two different trash service scenarios already offered in Boulder. The two scenarios include bear-resistant containers provided by the trash hauler (Western Disposal) and bear-resistant containers provided by the customer (One-Way).

Trash haulers will likely have to pay the upfront costs of changing to special containers and services, and the city may have additional staffing costs for increased enforcement.

Container Provided by Trash Hauler (Western Disposal)

The costs listed below are approximate estimates only; the actual costs will not be known until Western Disposal determines the quantity of containers that will be ordered. The cost estimates provided in the tables below show the approximate costs for two different types of bear-resistant containers  - "Bear-Saver" and "Bearicuda."

Western Disposal would provide customers with bear-resistant containers as part of their contracted trash service, with an increase in monthly rates to cover the cost of the containers. As with their current service, residential customers would have a choice of 32-, 64- and 96-gallon containers for trash and compost.

Additional Monthly Cost to Rent Bear-resistant Containers
The additional monthly cost would include all container maintenance and repairs due to normal wear and tear, damage due to collection equipment, and damage caused by bears. Western Disposal would replace damaged containers at no additional charge and customers could change the size of their compost container for no additional charge.

Bear-Saver Option Bearicuda Option
Size Additional Monthly Cost Size Additional Monthly Cost
64-gallon $4.60/container 64-gallon $2.78/container
96-gallon $4.75/container 96-gallon $2.87/container

Cost to Purchase Bear-resistant Containers
Customers could also choose to purchase their own bear-resistant containers to avoid the additional monthly fee. Maintenance and replacement of damaged containers would then be the customer's responsibility.

Bear-Saver Option Bearicuda Option
Size Cost to Purchase Size Cost to Purchase
64-gallon $248/container 64-gallon $172/container
96-gallon $260/container 96-gallon $183/container

Unlocking Charges

  • In areas with alley collection service, there would be no additional charge for unlocking the containers.
  • In areas with curbside collection service, customers that do not unlock their bear-resistant containers on the morning of collection would be charged an additional $2 per container, per month for unlocking.

Commercial and Multifamily
Western Disposal would provide customers with bear-resistant metal dumpsters as part of their contracted trash service. As with their current service, customers would have a choice of a two- or three-cubic-yard metal dumpster. Existing metal dumpsters with plastic lids would be retrofitted with heavy metal lids.

Additional Monthly Cost for Bear-Resistant Containers

  • $27 per dumpster (this includes a new bear-resistant dumpster and additional service costs).

The additional monthly cost of $27 per dumpster is based on the estimated cost of buying new bear-resistant dumpsters. If Western Disposal is able to find a lower-cost alternative by retrofitting existing commercial dumpsters, it may lower the monthly container price accordingly.

Container Provided by Customer (One-Way, Inc.)

In this scenario, customers would purchase and maintain their own bear-resistant containers. Once purchased, One-Way, Inc. would not charge additional monthly collection fees for bear-resistant containers.

There are many models of bear-resistant containers available. Example costs are provided below for two types of bear-resistant containers (from

Black Bear Container
A tough container offering a medium level of protection, including a bear-resistant latch and steel-reinforced side rails, back corners and lid.

Grizzly Container
A fully secured cart offering the maximum level of protection, including a bear-resistant latch and steel-reinforced side rails, lid, back corners, back stiffener, and handle area.

Size (Gallons) Grizzly Black Bear
32 $161 -
65 $222 $196
95 $231 $207
* Price does not include shipping.

Community Evaluation of Potential Options

City Council and staff considered the community's input while evaluating potential options for the location, storage, and enforcement of trash regulations to make food waste less accessible to bears.

City Council Meetings

Community Survey
From Nov. 22 to Dec. 23, 2013, the city collected feedback on options to secure trash and protect bears. Public feedback was collected via:

  • an online survey, completed by 302 people (see the Bears & Trash Survey Results pdf);
  • a public meeting on Dec. 9, 2013 (attended by 29 community members); and
  • 57 direct emails received by staff.


At its Oct. 15, 2013 meeting, City Council received a staff update about bears and trash in the urban interface. This update was in part due to community and council concerns related to four bears that were killed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife due to public safety concerns. Council identified securing trash from bears as a priority and staff began developing options for council consideration. The community’s input helped shape the staff recommendation that was presented to City Council on Jan. 21, 2014.

Community Meetings

  • City Council discussed the options for securing trash in Boulder on Jan. 21, 2014.
  • A public meeting was held on Dec. 9, 2013 to discuss the options for securing trash in Boulder.
  • An Environmental Advisory Board meeting was held on Dec. 4, 2013 to discuss the options for securing trash in Boulder.

A. Problem Statement
Boulder has a history of black bears foraging on trash, fruit trees, bird feeders, and other food attractants in the western urban area. Black bears tend to avoid humans, though their presence in residential areas is well-documented, and the potential for interaction with community members is a potential threat to human safety.

The greatest danger to bears occurs when they become dependent on human food. The average trash receptacle contains thousands of usable and easily accessible calories for a bear to consume. Bears discover that it is quicker and easier to knock over a trash container for food than to forage for their natural food sources in nearby wooded habitat and natural areas. While eating trash, bears consume cellophane, foil, and other non-digestible material that is harmful and can make them sick.

Eating trash is not the only danger to bears. Bears that spend time eating human-generated food sources get used to being around people, lose their natural fear of people, and then spend more time in town. These habituated bears have a higher mortality rate than bears that live in natural areas. In 2013 alone, two bears were killed by cars, and four bears were killed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers due to public safety concerns.

The most effective way to curb bears learning to live off trash in town is to secure trash. By developing effective strategies to secure trash, and improve community awareness on how to co-exist with bears, the city and the community will increase the safety of residents while protecting local wildlife.

B. Objectives

  • Encourage the community to participate in the conversation about options to improve trash storage.
  • Collect community feedback on options to reduce the accessibility of food waste to bears.
  • Use community feedback to develop a staff recommendation for City Council on Jan. 21, 2014, leading to an ordinance with solutions to reduce bears' access to trash.

C. Adaptive Management Approach
On Oct. 18, 2011, City Council accepted the Black Bear and Mountain Lion Component of the Urban Wildlife Management Plan (UWMP), which identifies an adaptive management approach to reducing the accessibility of trash to bears in Boulder. The approach includes a three-year monitoring and evaluation cycle, which involves the following three steps:

  • Step 1: Monitor the issue and build community education and awareness (2012 and 2013);
  • Step 2: Evaluate results and success (2014); and
  • Step 3: Make changes to the approach based on the evaluation results (2014).

D. Programs Implemented
The 2012 and 2013, UWMP implementation efforts to address bears in trash included:

  • community surveys designed to uncover current attitudes, behaviors, and obstacles in living with black bears in western Boulder;
  • bear activity monitoring, including systematic recording of bear/trash conflicts in select neighborhoods west of Broadway; and
  • the Bear Education and Enforcement Pilot Program, in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

E. Issues and Considerations
Community feedback provided during the development and implementation of the Urban Wildlife Management Plan (UWMP), in addition to research on strategies to limit bears access to trash, have illustrated a successful community-supported program that improves the way trash is secured from bears must consider the issues listed below.

  • Effectiveness vs. Feasibility: The most effective trash securing strategies implemented by other communities may not be feasible for Boulder. Specifically, the most effective long-term solution to securing trash from bears is to establish communal trash enclosures that serve about 20 residences per enclosure (for more information on evaluating the effectiveness of waste management collection systems, visit the Get Bear Smart Society website). Due to challenges in identifying space for communal dumpsters in areas where bears most commonly access trash in Boulder, communal dumpsters are not listed as an option at this time.
  • Compliance and Enforcement of the Current Trash Ordinance: Code enforcement patrols for violations and many are observed by an officer without being reported by a resident. Although Boulder requires residents and businesses to secure trash from animals, the ordinance is currently a reactive enforcement, once trash has already been scattered. The law has been difficult to enforce, because trash is often scattered by bears in the evening or early morning hours. When an incident is reported, the trash may have been cleaned up prior to the arrival of an officer, leaving no evidence of bear activity and thus preventing staff from issuing a warning or summons. In addition, the pilot area showed 20 percent of homes had trash violations observed by an officer. If that percentage of trash violations was extrapolated to the area of the city used by bears (view the Map of Trash Regulation Zone pdf), more than 2,000 residences would need to be contacted, exceeding current code enforcement staffing levels.
  • Bears Being Killed: Community input has stressed the concern caused by the need to kill four bears in Boulder in 2013. City Council has also expressed the importance of securing trash to protect bears.
  • Cost: While community members do not seem opposed to the use of bear resistant-containers, the city received feedback that additional monthly household costs are too expensive. Western Disposal, the trash hauler for the majority of city residents, may have to shoulder costs of changing trash and compost containers and services, and the city may have additional staffing costs for increased enforcement. See the "Potential Cost Impacts" section below for more information.

For more information, review the Analysis of Trash Storage Approaches to Deter Bears pdf.

F. Evaluation of Education and Law Enforcement as a Strategy to Improve Trash Storage
The following four guiding questions were used in the Black Bear Education and Enforcement Pilot Program, and mid-program (2012) findings provide information about the effectiveness of education and law enforcement as a strategy to effect behavior change in how trash is stored.

1. Is education alone an effective strategy to positively impact how trash is stored?

No. The pilot showed there was a five percent difference between the number of trash violations at residences that had been contacted through door-to-door education versus residences that had not been contacted.

2. Does education followed by law enforcement positively impact trash storage behavior?

Yes. Behavior change was detected in three different aspects of the program:

  • Voluntary increase in the use of bear-resistant containers
    There was a significant increase in voluntary use of bear-resistant containers by Western Disposal customers, increasing from 24 percent at the beginning of the pilot program in April 2012, to 40 percent in October 2012.
  • Change in the pattern of putting out the trash the night before pick up
    Most residents who received warnings from law enforcement officers (58 percent) and all residents who received a court summons (100 percent) did not repeat the behavior of putting their unsecured trash out the night before pick up.
  • Appearance of fewer violations over time (and during peak urban bear activity)
    Throughout the focused law enforcement period (July to November), violations decreased from 24 to four.

3. If education and law enforcement do positively impact behavior, is the change significant enough to merit continuing with the approach as the primary strategy to address the problem of trash as an attractant to bears?

Maybe. Despite high levels of awareness and compliance by a majority of residents, unsecured trash of a minority of residents creates a significant attractant to bears. Approximately 20 percent of homes were not in compliance with current trash laws that specify that trash must be secured from bears. Though that percentage is relatively low, the number of residents that need to be contacted by law enforcement is significant: there are an estimated 12,436 residences in the area of Boulder that is frequented by bears (west of Broadway Avenue, south of Wonderland Lake, and north of the southern city limits). If the percentage of residences that experienced bear/trash conflicts in the pilot area was extrapolated to the area of the city frequented by bears, about 1,914 residences would need to be contacted by code enforcement officers.

4. Do current trash regulations adequately address the availability of trash to bears?

No. There are two major limitations of current trash regulations:

  • The current trash ordinance is reactive and not proactive
    The current city ordinance requires trash, recycling, and compost to be stored in a manner that they are not overflowing, and their contents are not scattered by animals; and prohibits containers from being put outside prior to 5 a.m. the morning of pick up. Residences that have alley trash pickup are exempted from the latter requirement. The ordinance does not provide guidance about how trash must be stored so as to not be scattered by animals, and can only be enforced after trash has already been disturbed.
  • Enforcement of the trash ordinance requires an officer to serve a summons for the observed infraction directly to the resident or property owner.
    The limitations of this “direct serve” requirement are that contact may not be made if residents are not home during contact attempts, or that residents do not come to the door when contact is being attempted.

Sign Up for Emails

To sign up for email updates, select the Wildlife Plan Emails link and mailing list.

View Full Site