Mar 25, 2011 6:47 PM by Greg Boyce

Bear aware tips for spring

The Colorado Division of Wildlife says it's time to prepare for bears.

Black bears are opportunistic feeders that will eagerly exploit any available food source.

"During the summer, a bear's primary concern is finding food," said Albert Romero, a District Wildlife Manager in De Beque." It's a lot easier to get calories from a trash can than to forage for them bite-by-bite. The problem is that an easy meal provided by a careless person can cause a bear to lose its natural fear of humans."

Wild foods are essential for bears -- berries, insects, acorns, plants and carrion. But when people fail to store garbage, pet food or bird feeders properly, bears will find those sources and cause conflicts in residential and business areas.

In addition to residential garbage, pet food, bird seed, and greasy barbecue grills are common bear attractants. Around commercial areas, unsecured restaurant dumpsters can quickly become targets for bears. Once a bear becomes accustomed to human food and loses its fear of people, it can present a risk to public safety. Bears that become a risk to human safety often have to be euthanized.

"Bears don't mean any harm - they're just trying to survive," said Aspen District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright. "But as bear and human populations continue to spread and grow, so does the possibility of conflict. If people keep in mind their responsibility to protect our wildlife, it should help reduce the problem."

Under the Division's two-strike bear policy, a problem bear that can't be scared away from humans may be tranquilized, given an ear tag and relocated. If a tagged bear gets into trouble a second time, wildlife managers must destroy the bear. The two-strike policy only applies to nuisance bears, but any bear that behaves aggressively or presents a threat to public safety is put down immediately.

Division authorities work hard to educate the public and reduce the number of bears that need to be euthanized. Although the education campaign has been an ongoing effort for several years, the need for it does not appear to be waning.

If you live in bear country, the Division offers simple precautions to reduce or eliminate your chances of having conflicts with bears.

  • Don't leave pet food or pet dishes outside. Feed pets indoors.
  • Remove bird feeders and sweep up excess seed. If bears get into bird feeders, take the feeders down immediately and don't put them back up. Take hummingbird feeders inside at night.
  • Clean outdoor grills after each use. The smell of grease can attract bears.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and off the ground.
  • Close and lock doors and windows, especially on ground-level floors when you are not at home. Bears have a keen sense of smell and may enter a home in search of an easy meal.
  • Don't leave food in your car. Bears are strong enough to pry open car doors. Lock your vehicle when not in use.

Should a bear appear in a residential area, the Division encourages people to make the bear feel unwelcome by yelling, making noise and throwing objects. Bears will typically leave if confronted, but if attacked, fight back with anything at hand.




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