Need for bear awareness rises with spring temps
Spring is in the air across Grand County and while alpine hikes and weekend adventures on the mountain lakes are not far off, it is also time for local black bears to begin emerging from their winter dens.
Bears are a part of life in Grand County. Each year locals and visitors alike encounter bears in both positive and negative ways. All too often, though, these encounters lead to bears being euthanized by wildlife officials or killed by scared citizens, as happened to a bear cub at a campsite up Vazquez Creek in 2015.
In an effort to reduce human and bear conflicts, and reduce the number of black bears killed because of those conflicts, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has, for several years now, highlighted an educational program they call “Bear Aware.”
The Bear Aware educational program focuses on several areas including safe camping procedures, what to do if you see a bear and — arguably most important for the citizens of Grand County — how to bear-proof your home or business. Black bears are opportunistic scavengers that spend the warm months of the year working to consume every last calorie they can find.
Human settlements, like the local towns but also popular camping sites, are often easy targets for bears that regularly seek out trash bins and other organic garbage left by people. Over time bears that seek out and obtain calories from human garbage — or other human derived sources — can become inured to the danger posed by people.
To that end CPW recommends several actions that can prevent bears from being attracted to a given area. Locking garbage cans, or putting them inside garages overnight, is a good place to start. Bird feeders also often attract bears and CPW recommends removing them during summer months. If camping in our local forests make sure you pick up all trash and garbage, including anything you might consider biodegradable, and lock all food products inside of a car overnight – bears occasionally open car doors and get inside.
Locking cars is an important detail to remember, as citizens in the Grand Lake area discovered almost two years ago. In mid-October 2016, a black bear managed to get into a car on County Road 4651 near Grand Lake and became trapped inside. While inside the car the bear somehow shifted the car into neutral and the car rolled away before striking a nearby tree. The bear was released from the car by first responders later that morning.
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The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Colorado Highway 125 in Grand County while crews work to clear the route of mud, debris and snagged trees piled up on various bridges and guardrails.