Keeping wild bears wild starts at home

District Wildlife manager Kevin Wright examines the bear-smudged glass door at the home of Aspen resident Tom Paxton. Getting homeowners to bear-proof their residences is one way to reduce human/bear conflicts.

April showers bring black bear sightings.

While there’s likely no connection between spring rains and the emergence of the state’s black bears, spring is the time when wildlife managers urge Colorado residents take precautions to help keep wild bears wild.

Dry conditions across the state presage more human/bear conflicts and while such conflicts may be a fact of life in some areas, those conflicts can be reduced significantly if humans take the first preventive step.

The biggest factor leading to run-ins with bears is the availability of human sources of food, including garbage, pet food, livestock food, compost piles, bird feeders, chicken pens, etc.

It doesn’t take much to start the trouble. With their heightened sense of smell, bears can pick up food odors from miles away.

“Bears receive a big calorie reward if they get into something like pet food or bird seed or leftover pizza,” said Patt Dorsey, southwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Once they get a taste, they quickly become habituated to human food, and conflicts start. When that happens, things usually don’t go well for the bear.”

Dorsey said such situations often result in a bear being trapped and relocated, or, in the worst scenario, being killed.

“Some bears can be relocated,” she said. “But bears deemed dangerous must be destroyed. We put down problem bears because we have to, not because we want to.”

Colorado has excellent bear habitat from the Front Range to the Western Slope, and bears naturally go to the areas where food is most available.

If food sources in town are limited, bears likely will spend more time in the wild, wildlife managers say.

Colorado’s human residents play a major role in keeping bears wild, said Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose.

“The public can help us by being conscientious and not leaving any types of food available to bears,” DelPiccolo said. “Without the public’s diligence in reducing human sources of food, we have limited success in avoiding and reducing conflicts.”

For more information, go to the Living with Wildlife section on the Parks and Wildlife website,


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