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Being aware: Living in the bears’ backyard

Bears … they are back.

Human ignorance, carelessness or disregard of food storage or disposal attracts bears. In recent years, emboldened bears are increasingly raiding garbage cans and even entering houses in search of easily available food. The Colorado Division of Wildlife urges people to be bear aware.

So, what does it mean to be bear aware? Here are tips offered by Colorado DOW to keep bears out of trouble:

Keep your polycart in a well-secured location; and only put it out on the morning of pickup. Clean your cart regularly to keep it odor free.

If you don’t have secure storage, put items that might become smelly into the freezer until trash day.

Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside. Bird feeders should be brought in at night this time of year or hang them so they are inaccessible to bears.

Allow your barbecue grill to burn for 10 minutes after cooking to eliminate odor. Or store it in the garage.

Bears are generally not aggressive towards people; but do not approach them. If you want to scare them away from your property, yell at them or spray water to move them. Most importantly, do not make food available to them or they will return.

Studies have shown that bear cubs raised on human food looked to human sources for food when they become independent.

When a bear becomes a danger (breaking into cars or buildings), they are relocated. Relocating a bear is a difficult process for the animal and time consuming for DOW personnel. If the bear gets in trouble again, it is destroyed.

Bears also meet untimely deaths from being struck by moving vehicles. Adult bears that learned to forage in populated areas are many times more likely to die from being hit by vehicles as bears that live in the wild.

An alarming bit of information I recently came across mentioned that “aversive conditioning” has little effect on bears used to consuming human food. Bears that grow up on people food, when bombarded with rubber bullets, paint balls or bean bags tend to ignore the rude treatment.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you are not doing bears any favors by sharing your leftovers with them.

Colorado DOW has started a five-year study in southwest Colorado to learn about black bear behavior and its relationship with humans. The first study of its kind in southwest Colorado, the study’s goals are to learn how bears function in populated areas, how to reduce run-ins with bears and how to better determine bear numbers. Researchers have chosen the Durango area (extending east of Bayfield and into the Animas Valley) for the current study because it is prime bear habitat adjacent to urban areas.

Several methods will be used to gather information: Global Positioning System collars on trapped bears and hair-snare traps to gather hair samples. The hair samples and genetic markers taken from trapped bears will identify individual animals.

Cage traps and hair snares are being placed on public and private property and baited. Although these contraptions are being placed away from trails or places that people walk, the public is asked to leave the area at once if they spot a hair snare or cage trap.

Trash clean-up

With the departure of snow and the arrival of increased vehicular traffic on our roadways, we cannot help but see the accumulation of unsightly trash. Various groups of volunteers are working hard to clean the eyesore.

Just a fortnight ago, Wolf Creek Wheel Club members picked up trash along the two-mile stretch of U.S. 160 on the east end of town. Days before that, Pagosa Lakes Swim Team picked up, literally, a small mountain of trash just in the central core area of Pagosa Lakes.

Some people are horrible offenders. They care not for the environment nor for the greater good of the community. Shame on them.

But thank you to those who continually give time to keep the roadways picked up. And more volunteers are needed.

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