Keep bears safe by storing trash properly
For Sky-Hi News
Black bears all over the high country are coming out of hibernation, and after six months of fasting in their dens, they are hungry. This is the prime time for bear activity. Male bears normally emerge from their dens around mid-March, females with cubs around mid-April. As of last week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has recorded bears out and about in 14 counties.
As human population grows in bear country, along with a lack of natural vegetation due to drought, more bears will find themselves on the wrong side of a dumpster or garage this season.
Before settlers arrived on the scene, Grand County was home to black bears who roamed in search of plants, berries, fruits, nuts and more. At this time of year, black bears’ main goal is to find enough food to fill their bellies again after a long hibernation. They follow their sensitive noses, which can smell food up to 5 miles away. Sometimes, humans make the search for sustenance too easy for these resourceful animals.
That cute bear you took photos of peeking at you from the forest, may one day get brave and venture into your territory. Bears are intelligent animals that can open doors to get inside cars and homes with ease. Once inside, bears can even open coolers or refrigerators to ransack the contents inside.
“Every time a bear gets a treat, a bird feeder…or trash, it teaches the bear that people mean food,” said Mark Lamb, Parks and Wildlife’s area wildlife manager for Area 1. “People who think that it’s one time, no big deal, are totally wrong. It is a big deal when you compound that ‘one time’ with how many ‘one timers’ they get from your neighbors, too. It adds up.”
Black bears are naturally wary of people, but the need for food overrides this fear, especially if they’ve had prior interactions around homes. If a bear has gotten into a dumpster or shed and enjoyed a good meal, they will definitely be back. When a bear becomes too comfortable with destroying property to find food, they will have to be put down.
When a black bear loses its life, that means one less bear is part of Colorado’s delicate ecosystem. Wildlife should be respected as a part of nature. Bears are only following their instinct to eat. It’s up to people to keep their property safe from damage, and prevent needless loss of life. Securing your belongings means bears stay where they belong: in the wild.
There are many things people can do to prepare for a safe bear season. Parks and Wildlife has a “Bear Aware” program, where volunteers host educational booths at events, offer advice to residents, and can even make house calls .
The organization also provides a list of instructions people can follow to bear-proof their property:
- 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.
- Clean all garbage cans regularly to keep them odor free.
- Take down all bird feeders. Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts — 1,073 feeder-related conflicts occurred from 2019-2021.
- Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside.
- Install and test your electric fencing to protect your chicken coops, bee hives or livestock enclosures.
- 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; 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, buy your own bear canister or leave all food in the trunk of a locked vehicle as your last resort.
- Buy an air horn or bear spray. These tools are good to have whether for your home or if you go hiking and camping. They can help haze bears away.
Parks and Wildlife is offering a human-bear conflict reduction community grant this June. The award offered is from $50,000 up to $500,000. Individuals and communities who experience black bear conflict are eligible for this grant, including: local/county governments, park and recreation departments, open space departments, landowners, businesses, tribes, universities, and nonprofits. In order to receive the award, the recipient must have an achievable goal for reducing black bear conflicts, plus local support.
Applications are available on the Parks and Wildlife website and are due by 5 p.m. on May 6. For questions on applying please contact Kristin Cannon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-291-7313. Application assistance is available. For more information on staying bear aware, please visit: CPW.state.co.us/bears.
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