Bears are on the prowl for food |

Bears are on the prowl for food

Photo courtesy of Colorado Division of Wildlife

Beginning now until winter begins, bears will be persistently looking for food to bulk up for hibernation. The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) reminds homeowners it is especially important to take care not to attract bears with garbage or other food sources. Because bears are eating more and more every day, people might see more bears near their homes.”Just because a bear is near your house doesn’t mean it is being aggressive,” said Tonya Sharp, district wildlife manager in Teller County. “Black bears are not aggressive animals – it’s probably looking for food. The closer we get to winter, bears will be searching for food up to 20 hours a day.”While bears eat some meat, they are not predators in the same sense mountain lions are. Bears might kill chickens, rabbits and other penned livestock, but generally do not stalk. Up to 90 percent of a bear’s diet is vegetation. The 10 percent that is carnivorous usually consists of insects and carrion (dead animals). “When a bear is eating it is generally not aware of anything else,” Sharp said. “If someone yells at a bear and it doesn’t move, it doesn’t mean it’s being aggressive.” Biologists estimate that adult bears need to consume up to 20,000 calories per day in the fall to store enough fat to sustain them through hibernation. Even when acorns and berries are plentiful, bears will try to find the easiest source of food available. “If that food is in a backyard, that’s where they’ll go,” Sharp said. “Bears are looking for high-calorie food, and they can find that in things like dog food, bird seed and human food scraps. Bears can be tough, persistent, intelligent and aggressive animals when they want something, but if human food is not available, they’ll go someplace else to find something to eat.”The longer a bear hangs around where people live, the more dangerous it is because it becomes habituated to humans. In some cases, trapping, relocating or destroying them must be considered, said Sharp.The DOW takes a dual approach to solving bear conflicts. The first line of defense is to inform homeowners, campers, hikers and others on how to protect themselves in bear habitat. Rather than immediately removing problem bears, wildlife managers ask people to first remove whatever might be attracting the bruins in the first place. Wildlife officers will use rubber buckshot, pepper spray, and other techniques to persuade bears to leave an area. If those methods fail, wildlife managers will consider trapping and relocating bears. Anything that can attract bears must have been removed beforehand, however.Sharp encourages anyone who lives in bear country to “bear-proof” their house. She recommends keeping all lower level windows and doors secured and installing an electric fence around chicken coops, rabbit hutches and areas where livestock feed is stored. “Anyone with a refrigerator or freezer in their garage should remember to keep the garage door closed,” she added.Colorado is home to between 8,000 and 12,000 black bears. Black bears are between 4-6 feet long and weigh between 150-450 pounds. They may be black, brown and even cinnamon in color.

• Keep garbage in airtight containers and stored in an enclosed area such as a garage or shed. Place the garbage cans outside just before scheduled pickup, not the night before.• Take down bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders, at night.• Do not leave pet food or bowls outside. Feed pets inside or bring the bowls in promptly after feeding.• Do not put food items such as meat, fruit, or vegetables, in your compost pile.• Clean up fallen fruit from bushes and fruit trees.• Keep lower windows and doors closed and locked. Bears have been known to tear screens off trying to get at food they can smell inside.• Put an electric fence around chicken coops, rabbit hutches or areas where livestock feed is stored.The DOW urges you to keep your property clean of bear attractants. It is important that bears forage on natural food sources in order to maintain healthy populations throughout the state with a minimum of human/wildlife conflicts.

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