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Bears on the move, looking for food as fall approaches

By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN

While humans are basking in the heat of mid-summer, bears know that fall is approaching and they are starting to prepare for their long winter naps. That means bears are now constantly on the move looking for food, and many are finding their way into town and residential areas.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds people throughout Colorado to take precautions to prevent conflicts with bears.

In the last few weeks, there have been numerous reports of bear conflicts all over the state. In Aspen, a woman was injured by a bear that had been in an alley dumpster. Bears have broken into numerous vehicles and cabins, and they’ve taken aim at chicken pens. Bears are also making regular visits to residential areas in the other communities.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say that food attractants made available by people are the cause of most of the conflicts

“Overall, natural food sources that bears rely on look good,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in the Gunnison area. “But bears are also entering the stage of hyperphagia when they need to eat up to 20,000 calories a day to get ready for hibernation. People need to be especially cautious with their garbage and food attractants.”

Giving bears easy access to food allows them to become comfortable in an area. If they find food, they can become aggressive and will act to defend it. A bear protecting its food source can be very dangerous.

“Don’t ever let bears get comfortable in your neighborhood or around your house,” Wenum said.

People who keep chickens need to take precautions to protect their livestock, said Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose.

“The best thing they can do is put up an electric fence,” said DelPiccolo. “Electric fences are an excellent deterrent and work very well.”

Other small livestock, such as goats, sheep and miniature horses should also be kept inside an electric fence or full enclosure. At night, those animals should be brought into a secure building.

Following are tips from Colorado Parks and Wildlife on simple precautions people can take to avoid conflicts with bears:

  • Keep garbage in a well-secured location and only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
  • Use a bear-resistant trash can.
  • Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them odor-free.
  • If you don’t have secure storage, put items that might become smelly into the freezer until trash day.
  • If you use a dumpster, make sure that it can’t be opened by a bear.
  • Don’t leave pet food outside.
  • Bird feeders should be brought in at this time of year — birds don’t need to be fed during the summer.
  • If you have bird feeders, clean up beneath them daily, bring them in at night and hang them high so that they’re completely inaccessible to bears.
  • Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food, and they’ll eat anything.
  • Allow grills to run 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. Electric fences provide good protections for small orchards.
  • Keep garage doors closed.
  • Keep the bottom-floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home and at night.
  • Keep doors locked, especially if your home has door handles that bears can push down easily.
  • Do not keep food in your vehicle; lock vehicle doors.
This story was posted on August 7, 2014.