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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Remain bear aware during hyperphagia — a bear’s time to pack on pounds

Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife/DJ Hannigan
As fall approaches hyperphagia begins, bear activity increases in preparation for winter. Remember to keep food away from bears for your safety and theirs. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Black bears in Colorado are entering hyperphagia and will spend up to 20 hours a day trying to eat more than 20,000 calories to fatten up for winter. As bears start to prepare for hibernation and hunt for food, Coloradans may see more bear activity in urban areas.

Most conflicts between people and bears can be traced to easily accessible human food, trash, fruit trees, shrubs or other attractants with strong odors as a bear’s natural drive to eat can overcome its fear of humans. When bears become too comfortable around humans, they can destroy property or even become a threat to human safety.

Significant portions of Colorado experienced a hard freeze in May, resulting in the loss of a majority of food sources above 7,000 feet in elevation. Because of this, coupled with the continued drought across Colorado, bears will be on the move looking for much-needed calories to survive through the year and prepare for the winter.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) most-reported conflicts are from attractants such as trash, bird seed, pet food and barbecue grills. Removing attractants can help eliminate conflicts and encounters with black bears. It is especially critical that people are extra vigilant and proactive in removing all attractants from outside homes and campsites.

A black bear’s natural diet consists of berries, fruits, nuts, plants and grasses that grow naturally in the foothills and forests. Drought conditions have impacted the prevalence of food sources for black bears; however, natural food sources are still available. 

“Research shows that bears prefer natural sources of food. But they will find sources of human-provided food if it’s available, when natural food sources are limited, which can become dangerous to humans,” said CPW Northwest Region Senior Wildlife Biologist Brad Banulis. “Preventing bears from relying on human food sources takes a community effort, and it’s important that we all take proactive steps to limit human food sources in order to avoid any possible conflicts with bears and bearproof our homes.” 

CPW offers these tips and precautions to help you prevent human/wildlife conflicts that can also save a bear’s life. 

Bearproofing your home

• Keep garbage in a well-secured location.

• Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.

• Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them free of food odors: ammonia is effective.

• Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.

• 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.

• 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 it, throw things at it, make noise to scare it off.

• Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.

• Clean the grill after each use.

• Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck.

• If you have fruit trees, don’t allow the fruit to rot on the ground.

• If you keep small livestock, keep animals in a fully covered enclosure. Construct electric fencing if possible. Don’t store livestock 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.

• Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear aware.

• Keep garage doors closed.

Cars, traveling and campsites

• 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.

• 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 the campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.

• Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.

CPW asks all residents and visitors to help save Colorado’s bears by being actively bear aware throughout the late summer and fall seasons. Bear conflicts and, unfortunately, bear euthanization is most often traced back to human behavior. It is all of our responsibility to help minimize risks to humans and bears alike by being mindful of our impacts.

For more information on bears in Colorado, visit cpw.state.co.us/bears. If you have questions or need to report bear problems, call your nearest CPW office. 

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