Bear facts of spring: food, conflict with humans

Bears coming out of hibernation are trying to survive, whether on food in the wild or human or pet food discarded or left lying about, wildlife officials say.


Living with bears

The Colorado Division of Wildlife offers the following advice for residents in bear country for minimizing the chances of encounters with the animal:

• Follow community ordinances regarding trash disposal. Don’t put out garbage until the morning of pickup. Store garbage in a secure building or a bear-resistant trash can or Dumpster. Wash garbage cans regularly with ammonia to reduce odors.

• If you don’t have a secure place to store garbage, ask your trash company for a bear-resistant container or purchase one. Make sure it is approved by the Living with Wildlife Foundation, which tests and certifies such containers. Rinse out recyclables before putting them out for collection. Seal smelly items in plastic bags and freeze them before placing them in the trash to minimize the odor.

• Don’t leave pet food or pet dishes outside. Feed pets indoors.

• Sweep up excess seed beneath bird feeders and remove them. Take hummingbird feeders inside at night.

• Clean outdoor grills after each use.

• Remove fruit from trees and the ground.

• Close and lock doors and windows, especially on ground-level floors when you are not at home.

• Don’t leave food in your car; lock cars when not in use. Bears can pry open car doors.

• Discourage bears that show up in residential areas by yelling, making noise and throwing objects from a safe distance. Bears usually will leave if confronted, but if you are attacked, fight back with anything at hand.

With Colorado’s bears rousing from their winter slumber, the Colorado Division of Wildlife wants to reawaken residents to the fact that humans’ food can lead to conflicts with the animals.

Those conflicts can be dangerous to people, but often can be deadly for bears, which sometimes have to be destroyed.

Bears are coming out of hibernation and soon become hungry feeders that will take advantage of human food sources as readily as wild ones when the opportunity presents itself,  the Colorado Division of Wildlife says.

The agency asks residents of bear country to properly manage trash, bird seed, pet food and other food sources to reduce the animals’ interest in visiting residential areas.

Bears that pose a danger to humans often must be destroyed. The Division of Wildlife also destroys bears that have been relocated but continue to have conflicts with humans. These bears simply are trying to survive, Aspen District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright said in a news release. But they can become problem bears when tempted by human food sources.

He said he recently saw a lot of trash bins without locks in residential areas in the Aspen area, along with other poor practices that can tempt bears.

“We really want people to take care of their trash and other attractants so we don’t have to deal with problems later,” he said.

Living responsibly in bear country is a continuing educational challenge for the Division of Wildlife, spokesman Randy Hampton said.

But he added, “The message we’ve gotten from the public, too, is the majority of people out there are appreciative of the fact that there are bears, that there are wildlife, and they understand people need to take on that responsibility.”

Conflicts with bears can vary significantly in number from year to year, and can hinge on how much growth of berries, acorns and other wild food sources occurs in a given season. Hampton said what level of production will occur this year is hard to say, as it all depends on the weather.

The agency also recommends that residents who see bears near their homes make them feel unwelcome by yelling, making noises and throwing things. Hampton said the DOW isn’t asking people to jeopardize their safety, and they shouldn’t use such measures if the bear is too close.

“But we do find if you make some noise or throw things at a bear that’s hanging out in the neighborhood, a lot of times they don’t like the noise, they don’t like the activity that much, and they’ll move on,” he said.


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