Grand County bears dining in town as natural food scarce because of cool weather |

Grand County bears dining in town as natural food scarce because of cool weather

Courtesy photoThis young bear climbed about 40 feet to get on to the deck at Mary and Bob Amann's house on Timber Drive in Winter Park. When authorities arrived and shooed the animal away, it shimmied down off the deck as easily as it had ascended the structure.

About a dozen humming birds recently alerted Mary Amann that a bear was on her deck.

The birds were buzzing at the bear because it was stealing sugar from the hummingbird feeder.

“(The birds) were making such a ruckus. They knew exactly what he was doing,” said Amann, of Winter Park. “He just tipped that humming bird feeder up and just drink it.

When it was all done he started licking his fur.

“It cleaned out the humming bird feeder. The humming birds were furious.”

The small bear was cute, but she was concerned that maybe it wasn’t a black bear because its fur color was brown. She called the Winter Park Police and later found out that all immature bears are brown.

“They (officers) clarified that it was a black bear,” she said.

The young bear was back again Tuesday morning.

Her house is on Timber Drive near the forest, making it a quick destination for a bear to stop for a snack.

The bears are coming out of hibernation hungry, but their primary source of food ” berries, nuts and plants ” are not available yet, so they’re looking elsewhere.

Amann has taken her humming bird feeder off the porch and won’t put it back unless someone is out there.

The Amanns usually see one or two bears a year.

“Never quite this early, though,” she said. “It alarms us a little … They are kind of scavenging more than usual because of the late spring.”

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the agency is “seeing an increase number of calls.”

He said Grand County hasn’t warmed up enough for all the natural food bears rely on to develop, adding that snow was still falling last weekend.

“Bears rely on those natural food sources,” he said. They are wandering into town “looking for other alternatives.”

Hampton said people should not put trash outside the night before it gets picked up, and to make sure trash containers are clean. Barbecue grills also should be cleaned and possibly stored inside. Bird feeders should be removed. People also should feed their pets inside.

Bears feed on berry crops, wild flowers, insects, nuts, grubs, worms and some meat.

“A majority of their diet is made up of fruits,” Hampton added. “They utilize a lot of nuts and acorn varieties.”

However, black bears sometimes kill cattle and deer.

Late May and early June is when the bears typically come out of hibernation.

For the last eight years, there has not been much snow when the bears awake. The last couple years were bad bear years, he said, because the weather warmed up early in spring, and then a late frost killed their food.

This year could be a good bear year “because many of the plants haven’t bloomed up entirely,” Hampton said. “If they can get along all summer long laying under some berry bush they have no reason then to necessarily leave that and go looking for food … If natural food sources crop up, that’s the best case scenario.”

“All signs point toward a good year,” he added. “Hopefully we won’t see that massive food failure,” he said, adding that nothing is certain with Mother Nature involved.

Black bears will usually avoid humans, he said. If a bear does appear ready to attack, people should make themselves appear as large as possible and yell. Never play dead, he said.

“If attacked, fight back,” Hampton said. “Attacks are just so extraordinarily rare.”

About 8,000-12,000 black bears live in Colorado, according to the DOW.

Humans should not feed bears because the food becomes like an addiction to them.

“It’s some of the responsibility that comes with living in the Colorado mountains,” he added.

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