It’s that time of year — bears are working to pack on the pounds for winter — meaning just about anything that smells enticing will be investigated, as one woman in Pagosa Country found out last week.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a woman was camping on private land in the area of Burns Canyon, southwest of Pagosa Springs, on Aug. 16, when a bear entered her tent at about 2 a.m. and bit her.
According to a CPW press release, the unidentified woman felt the bear touch her. She awoke immediately and the bear ran off.
The woman was treated and released for puncture wounds in the emergency department of Pagosa Springs Medical Center, according to Claire Bradshaw, PSMC spokesperson. CPW reported the woman as being, “slightly injured.”
According to Joe Lewandowksi, CPW southwest region public information officer, no investigation was done to determine what drew the bear to the tent.
After interviewing the woman at the hospital, wildlife officers went to the campsite at about 5 a.m. with bear-tracking dogs.
According to Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager, they were unable to catch the bear with the dogs. A trap was set in an attempt to capture the animal.
Officers were unsuccessful in catching the bear and the trap was removed on Monday.
Lewandowski reported that the determination of how to deal with the bear once it was trapped was never officially made, but that officers were concerned because bears will sometimes return to areas where they’ve previously found food.
“In some way, this is a good example of bad timing,” Thorpe said. “Bears investigate objects that smell like potential food sources. This bear was doing what bears do, but in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The CPW press release stated: “The area where the woman was camping is excellent bear habitat. The bear happened upon the tent and was attracted to it because of the food inside.”
“All around Pagosa is really excellent bear habitat, so people need to be extra careful,” Lewandowski said.
Bears are entering a seasonal phase known as hyperphagia, when they are eating all they can to prepare for winter hibernation. Bears forage for up to 20 hours every day during the late summer and early fall.
Favorite plants for bears include Gamble oak, chokecherries, hawthorn, and other fruit or seed crops. Campers should avoid camping near these types of vegetation.
In all seasons, though especially during the late summer and early fall, campers should not bring food or items that smell like food into their tents in bear country — including drinks, teas, toothpaste, deodorant and other items people don’t consider to be food.
Bears have a powerful sense of smell and will follow aromas for great distances. People who are camping should make sure they keep their camps clean, secure all food in vehicles, or hang it in trees if they are backpacking.
CPW also offers the following tips to homeowners and renters to help prevent conflicts in residential areas and keep bears wild:
• Keep garbage in a well-secured location, such as in a bear-resistant can or in a building, and only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
• Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them 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 outside.
• Bird feeders should be brought in at this time of year — birds don’t need to be fed during the summer.
• If you have bird feeders: clean up beneath them daily, bring them in at night, and hang them high so that they’re completely inaccessible to bears.
• Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food — and they’ll eat anything.
• Allow grills to burn for a couple of minutes after cooking to burn off grease and to eliminate odors. Clean the grill after each use.
• 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 rot on the ground.
• Keep garage doors closed.
• Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.
• If you see a bear in your neighborhood, make it feel unwelcome by making noise or throwing things at it, but stay at a safe distance and never approach the animal.
• Do not keep food in your car; lock car doors and roll up car windows.
• Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear-aware.
For more information about living in bear country, see the “Living with Wildlife” section of the Parks and Wildlife website at cpw.state.co.us.