Back to school and hungry bears — it’s fall in Colorado


By Randy Hampton

Special to The SUN

Fall is right around the corner, and it is time to be especially bear aware, says Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Black bears typically accumulate their winter fat stores in the fall during hyperphagia. They can forage for up to 20 hours a day, consuming nearly 20,000 calories and occasionally wandering into residential areas looking for food. Human-bear conflicts are a fact of life in Colorado, but with some simple actions, you can help reduce those conflicts, said Sabrina Hurwitz, district wildlife officer in Colorado Springs.

“Taking steps to keep your house and property free of potential food sources can prevent a bear from being killed,” she said. “Once a bear has gotten a taste of human food sources, conflicts start, and most conflicts end with a bear being relocated or euthanized.”

The biggest issue in conflict situations is the availability of human sources of food — garbage, pet food, livestock food, compost piles, bird feeders, chicken pens, etc. Bears have a phenomenal sense of smell and can pick up odors of food sources from miles away.

Much of what people throw away smells like food to a bear. Standard metal or plastic trash cans will not keep a bear away. Once a bear discovers a food source, it will continue to return, and could defend the source if it feels threatened.

Being “Bear Aware” can make a difference in human-bear interactions. Some simple rules can help:

Follow your community’s trash ordinances, and if your community doesn’t have an ordinance, be sure to put your garbage out the morning of pick up instead of the night before.

Keep all ground floor windows and doors closed and locked. Keep garage doors closed.

Never feed bears — it is illegal and risks the safety of you, your family, your neighbors and the bear. Don’t put out food for other wildlife like birds and small animals that might attract bears.

Pick fruit as it ripens and don’t let it rot on the ground.

Always lock your vehicle and don’t leave odorous food, trash or air fresheners inside.

Many parts of Colorado have experienced monsoonal moisture in recent weeks and that has led to good production of natural fall forage such as berries and acorns. Bears prefer natural food when it is available, but residents and visitors shouldn’t let their guard down until bears enter hibernation in mid-November.

“My experience is that it doesn’t matter what kind of year it has been for natural food production. Garbage is so readily available to bears that some bears seem to choose to forgo foraging for natural food and will come into town to grab those easy calories,” said Kristin Cannon, district wildlife officer in Boulder. “We are just as busy with human-caused bear conflicts as we have ever been. It is incredibly frustrating to have to kill a bear when all people had to do was secure their trash and the bear would have likely stayed and thrived in its natural habitat.”

If a bear is spotted near your residence, make it feel uncomfortable. Attempt to chase it away by yelling, whistling, clapping your hands or making other loud noises. However, under no circumstances should you ever approach or corner a bear.

For more information or bear-related questions, visit the agency’s website at, or contact the closest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.