Black bears have emerged from their winter dens and it's time for Colorado residents to take precautions to help keep bears wild.
Because of dry conditions in some parts of the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are cautioning residents that bear activity in towns and residential areas may be high again this year. Human-bear conflicts are a fact of life in Colorado, but with some simple actions residents of bear country can help to significantly reduce those conflicts.
"Bears receive a big calorie reward if they get into something like pet food, or bird seed or leftover pizza," explained Patt Dorsey, southwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "Once they get a taste they quickly become habituated to human food and conflicts start. When that happens, things usually don't go well for the bear."
Once black bears have discovered a food source they may defend it and can become dangerous. Those types of situations can be dangerous and it is undesirable to have wild, unpredictable animals in close proximity to people.
"Some bears can be relocated. But bears deemed dangerous must be destroyed. We put down problem bears because we have to, not because we want to," Dorsey said.
From the Front Range to the mountains to the Western Slope, Colorado offers bears good natural habitat. Bears will go to the areas with the best food availability, and it's best that they find their food in the wild. If food sources in town are limited, bears will likely spend more time in wild lands.
Colorado residents play a major role in keeping bears wild, explained Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose.
"The public can help us by being conscientious and not leaving any types of food available to bears," DelPiccolo said. "Without the public's diligence in reducing human sources of food, we have limited success in avoiding and reducing conflicts."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife ask that residents follow the following tips to keep bears out of trouble and to reduce conflicts:
- Obtain a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. Check with local authorities or your trash service to determine what types can be used where you live. Keep garbage in a well-secured location; and only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
- Clean garbage cans regularly to eliminate food odors. If you don't have secure storage, put food scraps and items that might become smelly into the freezer. Then put them in the trash on pick-up day.
- Don't leave pet food or feeding bowls outside.
- Attract birds naturally to your yard or garden with flowers and water features. For those who use bird feeders, suspend them high above the ground so that they're inaccessible to bears; clean up beneath them every day and bring them in at night,
- Tightly secure any compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.
- Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck. Don't allow food odors to linger.
- If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don't allow fruit to fall and rot on the ground.
- If you keep chickens or other small livestock, build a secure enclosure and bring the animals inside at night. Clean up pens regularly to reduce odors.
- Keep the bottom floor windows of your house and garage doors closed when you're not at home. Lock car doors.
- Never intentionally feed bears or other wildlife. It's illegal and dangerous.
- When backcountry camping, hang food high in trees; at campgrounds, lock food and trash in vehicles.
- For more information, go to the Living with Wildlife section on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/Pages/LivingWith.aspx.
If you know of someone in your neighborhood or town who is intentionally feeding wildlife, please call the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office to make a report.
If you would like a wildlife officer to come to your neighborhood or homeowners' association to talk about bears or other wildlife issues, contact your local Parks and Wildlife office.