By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN
Bears are coming out of their winter slumber in southwest Colorado, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is asking residents to help in making sure bears live as long and as wild as possible. Please, report bear issues to CPW as soon as you see them at 247-0855.
Some bear sightings were reported in the Durango and Bayfield areas this week.
Besides securing trash and taking down bird feeders, residents should call the CPW office as soon as they see bears knocking over trash cans, getting into bird feeders or hanging around an area for more than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, many people ignore what they might consider “minor” problems. Reporting problems early provides wildlife officers flexibility in dealing with the situation. But when a bear becomes aggressive, CPW officers have few options.
“We know that a lot of people don’t call CPW when a bear is causing problems in a neighborhood because they think our only course of action is to euthanize the bear,” said Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager in Durango. “But if we hear early about minor problems, wildlife officers have a menu of options on how to handle the issue and can take action that will have a better outcome for the bear and for the neighborhood.”
If a bear is causing problems, it’s most likely because some type of food source is available — bird feeders, improperly stored garbage, garbage cans being left out or being put out the night before pickup, pet food being left outside, etc. Often, the food source can be found at one residence in a neighborhood. So, when CPW receives a report, for example, of a bear hanging too long around an area, a wildlife officer can go there and attempt to determine the source of the problem.
“Early reports help us to approach a situation with a lot of options available,” Thorpe explained. “Many times, it’s easy to find the food source and talk to a resident about that. We can make suggestions to the neighborhood or a homeowners association, work with the trash hauler, or even decide to trap and move a bear.”
But CPW needs cooperation from residents to make an early intervention.
“The last thing a CPW officer wants to do is put down a bear. Every wildlife officer absolutely hates to do that,” Thorpe said. “But if a bear moves from causing minor problems to acting aggressively and causing major problems, like breaking into houses or vehicles, we have no options. At that point, we are required by law to euthanize the bear. Human safety always comes first.”
The best solutions come when residents choose to work with CPW.
“So please, give us a call when you see problems,” Thorpe said.
Bear sightings and problems should be reported to CPW’s Durango office at 247-0855.
Following are simple and effective tips to keep bears wild:
• Keep garbage in a well-secured location.
• Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
• Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them odor free.
• Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster, available from your trash hauler or on the Internet.
• 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 are a major source of bear/human conflicts. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water baths. Do not hang bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15.
• If you must have bird feeders: clean up beneath them every day, bring them in at night and hang them high so that they’re completely inaccessible to bears.
• Do not attract other wildlife by feeding them, such as deer, turkeys or small mammals.
• Don’t allow bears to become comfortable around your house. If you see one, yell at them, throw things at them, make noise to scare them off.
• Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food — and they’ll eat anything.
• Bears have good memories and will return to places they’ve found food.
• 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.
• Lock your doors when you’re away from home and at night.
• Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.
• Do not keep food in your vehicle; roll up windows and lock the doors of your vehicles.
• When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked vehicle after you’ve eaten.
• Keep a clean camp, whether you’re in a campground or in the backcountry.
• When camping in the backcountry, hang food 100 feet or more from campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.
• Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.
• Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear aware.
• If you keep small livestock, such as chickens, keep animals in a fully covered enclosure that is electrified. Don’t store stock food outside, keep enclosures clean to minimize odors, hang rags soaked in ammonia and/or Pine-Sol around the enclosure.
• If you have beehives, install electric fencing where allowed.
For more information, go to the Living with Wildlife section on the CPW website: cpw.state.co.us.