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Stay ‘bear-aware’ this spring, keep bears wild

Staff Writer

Warmer nights are bringing out curious and hungry wildlife — especially black bears — looking for something tasty to eat in your backyard.

While black bears tend to avoid humans if possible, the appeal of garbage, bird seed and compost peelings will bring the hungry animals directly to your door. Having bears so close is not safe for you or them, and eating human food or pet food is bad for a bear’s health.

Minimize black bear encounters this year by following these simple tips, courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the U.S. Forest Service.

Around the house

• Keep garbage in a secure location and/or in receptacles with bear-proof lids; put trash out the morning of garbage collection, not the night before.

• Clean garbage cans regularly to reduce odors.

• If you do not have a secure receptacle or location for garbage, store smelly items in the freezer until trash day.

• Bring all pet food and livestock food inside each evening.

• CPW informs that birds do not need to be fed during the summer; however, if you do have bird feeders in your yard, make sure to bring them in each evening before dark. Be sure to hang feeders high enough so they are inaccessible to bears.

• Secure compost piles; the smell of rotting food in your yard is a big attraction for all sorts of critters, including skunks, in addition to bears. Adding lime to compost piles reduces odors and accelerates decomposition.

• After enjoying summer cookouts, allow grills to burn off grease, thereby eliminating odors. Cleaning the grill after each use also helps keep bears away.

• Clean up thoroughly after outdoor meals and picnics.

• If you have fruit trees, pick all ripe fruit from the tree and ground as soon as possible.

• Investing in an electric fence is an effective way to keep bears and other large wildlife out of orchards, gardens, compost piles and beehives. Follow appropriate safety precautions.

• Keep garage doors and ground floor windows closed while away and at night.

• Don’t keep food in your car and lock car doors.

• If there is a bear in your neighborhood, make it feel unwelcome by making noise — but do not approach bears and make sure to stay a safe distance away.

Hiking

• Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

• Carry bear pepper spray, which is not the same as personal defense spray and must be EPA registered. Bear pepper spray is not a substitute for taking appropriate safety precautions.

• Hike in a group and make your presence in the woods known. Black bears avoid humans, but may attack if startled.

• Hike during daylight hours and stay on the trail.

• Watch for signs of bears: scat, claw marks, diggings, logs or stumps torn apart, etc.

• Avoid taking pets, as they may attract bears to you.

Encounters

When hiking, if a black bear is visible, but not close, alter your route so that you move away from its area.

If a black bear approaches, do not run and remain calm. Continue to face the bear and slowly back away. If the bear continues to approach, try to group together, pick up small children and attempt to scare the bear away by making aggressive noises.

In the rare case that a black bear attacks, the Forest Service suggests you fight back using everything in your power such as your fists, sticks and rocks.

Living in a rural area, encounters with black bears are likely to happen. Please help keep black bears wild, and yourself safe, by following these tips and by not approaching them or feeding them.

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on April 24, 2014.