Aug 19, 2013 7:44 PM by Andy Koen

Local bear population thriving on trash

COLORADO SPRINGS - The bear population in Southern Colorado is quite healthy; perhaps a little too healthy. Wildlife officers in Colorado Springs field between 800 and 1,000 bear calls each year.

Cory Chick, the Area Wildlife Manager for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Colorado Springs, says the biggest problem for the bears in our area is easy access to trash.

"They're getting unnatural food sources, like trash," Chick said. "It can even be people thinking that due to the fires, the bears aren't doing as well, that's not the case."

We humans eat and throw away very high calorie food, and Chick says the bears are just taking advantage of a good situation.

"It's easier to eat 10 hamburgers or 5 hamburgers or whatever than is than to spend the day eating berries and acorns."

However, those well-fed bears are breeding even more bears. Chick says it's common for female bears, called sows, to give birth to twins and triplets here because they are going into hibernation fatter and healthier.

Bears that forced to forage naturally might only have one cub per season.

News 5 reviewed the call records at the Parks and Wildlife Office for the past 5 years. There have been 452 bear related calls thus far in 2013. In 2012 there were 879, and in 2011 there were 1,066. Parks and Wildlife took 937 bear calls in 2010, and 834 calls in 2009.

For its size, Colorado Springs has one of the largest human populations living in a natural bear habitat. Yet there is little regulation in place to limit the bear's access to our trash.

"The toughest thing for us is, there are multiple trash companies," Chick explains. "So, even in a single community, you might have numerous trash companies that pick up on different days."

He hopes neighborhood groups and homeowners associations within the wild land urban interface will become more "bear aware" and either invest in locking bear-proof canisters, or delay putting out the until the morning it's picked up.

Chick says his organization is currently working with the City of Woodland Park to apply for a grant to offset the cost of purchasing more bear proof cans.

Wild black bears can become a threat to humans when they act aggressively, or when they become too comfortable and begin to "den" in areas near humans. Parks and Wildlife officers will generally euthanize those aggressive or complacent bears.

So far this year, 12 aggressive bears have been put down. There were 24 euthanized in 2012, 12 in 2011, another 12 in 2010 and 19 in 2009.

There were also 17 bears killed on roads and highways in El Paso and Teller Counties last year.


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