Black bear study shows eating human food helps, hurts

DURANGO — Black bears that eat human foods from trash cans have higher reproductive rates than those living on natural foods, according to a study by Colorado researchers.

The study by researchers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife also found bears that eat human food don’t survive as long as those left to the wild.

The bears have been fitted with collars that track their location, helping researchers determine how the animals behave.

The researchers use hair samples to find out how much processed human food the bears had been eating. Scent baits have been set up around the city of Durango to collect hair, the Durango Herald reported (http://tinyurl.com/jl6rrre ).

The study was launched because of increasing conflicts between bears and humans in Colorado, researcher Heather Johnson said.

“There’s a lot more risks for a little bear in town,” Johnson said.

For example, small cubs can get hit by a car, separated from their mothers or electrocuted while climbing power poles.

The study is being conducted in southwestern Colorado and is scheduled to end next winter.

Wildlife officials say it’s difficult to determine what happens to bears in other urban environments.

“It’s really tough problem: How many bears are out there, and what kind of impact are we having?” said Stewart Breck, a wildlife ecologist with the National Wildlife Research Center.


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