CDOW: Be ‘bear aware’ when camping

Memorial Day Weekend marks the traditional start to the camping season, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife reminds campers to be “bear aware” when enjoying the outdoors. Campers should keep their campsites clean to avoid attracting bears, or other wildlife.

Bears go into campgrounds because food is often available around tents, camp trailers, and dumpsters. The potential for conflicts increases when food brings bears and humans come into close contact.

“Bears are built to eat and their sense of smell is incredible,” explained Justin Krall, a district wildlife manager in the Westcliffe area. “They can smell food from miles away and they’ll travel to find it.”

In a natural setting, bears would just as soon avoid people, but bears that learn to associate humans with food begin to lose their natural fear of people.? “Food Conditioned” bears are the most dangerous kind. They usually end up being euthanized.

“It is unfortunate, but bears get into trouble because humans leave food around,” Krall said.

“Bears are not naturally aggressive toward humans, they are actually very shy creatures,” Krall said. “However, bears are on a mission to find food. Campers need to take precautions to avoid problems for you and your family, but also for the campers who use the site after you. Do not leave food or garbage behind. Always pack out your trash.”

Here are a few tips for campers in bear country:

• Keep a clean site and clean up thoroughly after every meal.

• After grilling, allow the fire to continue until food scraps and grease are burned completely off the grill.

• Do not eat in your tent or keep food in your tent.

• Do not leave pet food outside for a long period of time.? Any uneaten pet food should also be stored in a secure container.

• Store unused food and garbage in secure containers out of the reach of bears and away from your sleeping area.

• If you see a bear in a campground, report it to the local DOW office as soon as possible.

• If you come in close contact with a bear, talk to it firmly and make yourself look as large as possible. Back away slowly, but do not run.

• Teach children and others who might be unfamiliar with bears about bear safety.

For additional information on how the public can do their part to keep Colorado’s bears wild, please visit the Division of Wildlife’s Living With Wildlife Web page at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/ and click on the “Living with Bears in Colorado” link.