Bears are emerging from their dens; please prepare to be bear aware

DURANGO, Colo. – Someone once said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. But every spring Colorado Parks and Wildlife adds another item to that list: bears emerging from hibernation.

As the weather continues to warm up throughout Colorado, reports of bear sightings are starting to trickle into wildlife offices throughout the state. So now is the time for everyone in Colorado to shift back into bear-aware mode, said Steve McClung, assistant area wildlife manager for CPW in Durango.

“Please remember, we’re getting back into the season when bears are active,” McClung said. “So please, secure your trash and take down the bird feeders.”

Bird feeders are a major source of bear conflicts. You can instead attract birds naturally with flowering plants and bird baths. Wait until late November to hang feeders again.

Research shows that bears prefer natural sources of food. But they will find sources of human-provided food if it’s available. If bears become habituated to human sources of food they can become dangerous to humans.

CPW also urges residents to report bear problems to local wildlife offices as soon as they see them. If problems are reported early, CPW wildlife officers can use a range of options to deal with the bear. They can tour the neighborhood to look for food sources that are attracting bears, work with residents to correct the situation and set strategies to harass the bear to push it back into wild areas or to trap and move it if necessary. If CPW does not get reports until a bear is breaking into houses or vehicles, officers’ choices are limited.

“The last thing we want to do is put down a bear, every wildlife officer absolutely hates doing that,” McClung said. “So don’t hesitate to call us as soon as you see any bad behavior, even if it appears minor. That gives us a much better opportunity to correct the situation early.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers these tips and precautions to help you prevent human/wildlife conflicts:

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; available from your trash hauler or on the Internet.
  • If you don’t have secure storage, put items that might become smelly into the freezer until trash day.
  • 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 ─ and they’ll eat anything.
  • Allow grills to burn for a couple of minutes after cooking to burn off grease and to eliminate odors. Clean the grill after each use.
  • Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck. Don’t allow food odors to linger.
  • If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don’t allow 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 bee hives, 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 when you’re away from camp.
  • Keep a clean camp, whether you’re in a campground or in the back-country.
  • When camping in the back-country, hang food 100 feet or more from campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent
  • Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.

For more information go to the Living with Wildlife section on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife web site: cpw.state.co.us/bears. Should you have questions or need to report bear problems, call your nearest CPW office.

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