DOW: Bears awake, still foraging around Aspen
At a time when most bears would be in their dens asleep, it seems a few bears around Aspen haven’t gotten the word.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife still is answering calls from Roaring Fork Valley citizens concerned about late-season bears hanging around.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve still got bears around,” said Kevin Wright, the Aspen-area district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “I’ve had bears out in the second week of December before but I’ve never had this many calls.”
Bears usually hibernate by mid-November but they’ll stay out as long as food is available, Wright said.
This year saw an excellent crop of natural foods, including berries and acorns, and some of that still is attracting feeding bears.
“Their metabolism is starting to slow down but if there’s good food around they will take advantage of it,” Wright said. “We had a phenomenal year for natural forage and in years such as this bears tend to stay out a little longer.”
However, it’s not just berries keeping the bears out.
“Last week, we had three or four nights in a row when people had a bear getting into the trash, and I had another call from Snowmass where a bear was clawing at the kitchen vent,” Wright said.
He also has received other bears-in-the-trash calls in spite of strict local ordinances regarding bear-proof trash containers.
“It’s pretty frustrating because most of those ordinances have been in effect for several years,” Wright said.
Earlier this year, the city of Aspen tightened its trash-container laws by requiring bear-resistant containers to be placed indoors except on the day of trash pick-up.
The city allows only bear-proof containers to stay outdoors.
Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the number of bear incidents has been much lower this year thanks both to the natural forage and the county’s crackdown on bear-proof garbage containers.
Also, in recent years many of the “problem” bears have been removed.
“Last year we killed or moved about 100 bears from Pitkin County,” Hampton said. “A lot of those were habituated bears that caused a lot of problems.”
This year, only one bear was euthanized in Pitkin County, Hampton said.
Hampton also said the shortage of bear-human conflicts can be attributed to the division’s proactive approach of using volunteer “bear aware” teams to educate in communities and individuals in how to prevent bear conflicts.