Be smart because the bears are back in town, CPW says
A bear broke into a Routt County chicken coop on Wednesday and ate several chickens, marking one of the state’s first reported incidents involving bears this year.
As the black bear population wakes from hibernation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has already seen bear activity in eight Colorado counties in 2020. With the onset of spring, wildlife officials know more conflicts are inevitable, and they’re asking people to be smart in an effort to reduce the numbers.
Last year, the agency saw over 5,300 human-bear incidents reported with nearly a third of those involving the large, omnivorous animals getting into people’s trash.
“We have to do better as communities,” Matt Yamashita, area wildlife manager in Glenwood Springs, said in a news release that offered tips to cut down on conflicts.
For the bears’ health and well being, wildlife managers emphasize that bears should not be eating from the trash, bird feeders or other human-provided food sources, especially around people’s homes.
“Every time a bear gets a treat, a bird feeder, a hummingbird feeder, trash, it teaches the bear that people mean food,” said Mark Lamb, CPW’s area wildlife manager for South Park and the west Metro Denver area.
“People who think that it’s one time, no big deal, are totally wrong,” he continued. “It is a big deal when you compound that ‘one time’ with how many ‘one time’ they get from your neighbors, too. It adds up.”
Early season bear reports have put sightings in Boulder and Morrison with bears already getting into trash in Steamboat Springs and Silver Plume.
Another bear got into a vehicle in Snowmass Village, and there have been problems with bears and livestock in Delta, as well as a bear vs. dog encounter under a deck in Colorado Springs.
In Grand County, encounters with wildlife are simply a way of life, and incidents involving bears are extremely common.
According to CPW, male bears usually come out of hibernation first followed by females without cubs. Females that gave birth over the winter are typically the last to emerge from their dens, which typically happens in mid to late April.
What’s more concerning is biologists are seeing bears shift much of their life cycle toward human communities, CPW added.
“When a high-country berry bush yields a few hundred calories and a dumpster gives up thousands of calories via leftovers and greasy goodies, the bears will make the easy choice,” the agency explained. “Once they’ve made that choice, they are instinctively trained by their stomachs to search out the easy option.”
Lamb and Yamashita both say that bringing the large, territorial animals into areas with people is a recipe for human injury and for dead bears. While nuisance bears can be relocated if they’re caught early enough, bears that hurt people are killed.
“The bear is always the ultimate loser,” Lamb said.
- Keep garbage in a well-secured enclosure.
- Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup; bring empty cans back inside before dark.
- Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. These are available online or from your trash hauler.
- Clean all garbage cans regularly to keep them odor free. The scent of ammonia can deter bears.
- Take down all bird feeders. Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts – 397 conflicts because of them in 2019 alone. Birds have naturally available food sources during the spring, summer and fall. Don’t let your bird feeder become a bear feeder.
- Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside – never provide food sources for any wildlife.
- Clean all BBQ grills.
- Keep garage doors and windows closed and locked, especially between dusk and dawn.
- Don’t leave attractants such as snacks, food wrappers, gum, or even scented hand lotions in your car; and always lock vehicle doors.
- Use bear boxes or bear-proof containers for food and scented items when camping.
- Don’t leave food outside while camping. If bear boxes aren’t available, leave all food in the trunk of a locked vehicle as your last resort.
- Review CPW’s Bearproofing Your Home Fact Sheet and conduct a home audit to be sure you are not attracting bears to your property.
- Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear aware.
For more information about Living with Bears in Colorado, visit https://cpw.state.co.us/bears.
Source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
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