Failed relocation effort forces DOW to destroy yearling bear
Post Independent Staff
A yearling bear was destroyed earlier this month when it managed to find its way back to the Glenwood Springs area little more than a week after being relocated dozens of miles to the west.
It was the first bear the Colorado Division of Wildlife has had to put down in the Glenwood area in a number of years, said Sonia Marzec, district wildlife manager for the DOW.
The animal had been relocated under a more aggressive pilot policy the Colorado Division of Wildlife has adopted this year to deal with problem bears in the Glenwood area. The agency has relocated four bears from the Glenwood area so far this year and has warned some No Name residents that they could be cited if they don’t clean up food sources that attract bears.
The DOW initially tried for about a week to trap the 90-pound bear after it went through a screen door and got into some trash and dog food in a home in No Name, just east of Glenwood Springs.
DOW district wildlife manager Sonia Marzec said the agency then got a report of the bear going through a screen door at a second home in No Name. Officers set another trap on June 23 and caught the bear a day later.
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They released it south of Rifle, toward Collbran, she said.
Then, a resident in the area of 24th Street and Oriole Street in Glenwood reported to the DOW that a bear had broken into her home during the Fourth of July weekend. The animal employed the same modus operandi as the No Name bear, going through a screen door and getting into trash inside. The bear even got into the refrigerator, Marzec said.
On July 4, a bear identified as the No Name bear was spotted up a tree in the same area, and later it tried to get into backyard barbecue, she said. Officers trapped him at the base of the tree and destroyed him the next day.
Under the DOW’s statewide two-strikes policy, bears that are marked and relocated because they cause problems must be destroyed if they resume such behavior.
In the past, local DOW officers have tried to avoid relocating bears. Instead, they have worked to educate the public about keeping properties free of trash and other attractants, have deployed such deterrents as tack strips and ammonia balloons, and have tried hazing bears out of neighborhoods in an effort to try to avoid relocating them.
However, the agency has begun trapping and moving bears more often in and around town following escalating problems in recent years. The city of Glenwood Springs also has instituted an ordinance aiming to reduce bear attractants in neighborhoods through requirements such as prohibiting putting trash out until the day of pickup unless it’s in a bear-resistant container.
Marzec said the DOW officers warned some No Name residents that they could be cited for violating DOW rules after reports that some people there were intentionally feeding bears. She said the agency hasn’t been able to prove that food was being left out to attract the animals. However, state law allows ticketing of people who are unintentionally causing problems with trash cans, bird feed and other attractants, and failed to clean things up after the DOW contacts them.
The DOW’s pilot policy calls for immediately destroying bears that enter locked homes. Bears going through screen doors are spared but relocated.
Bears began visiting residential areas more in recent years, after a continuing drought reduced the volume of berries and other food they eat in area mountains. But Marzec said the bears have adequate natural forage this year.
“We shouldn’t have bears in town and taking up residence,” she said.
Other bears the DOW has relocated in the Glenwood area include:
n A No Name bear weighing about 140 pounds, and about a two and a half years old.
Marzec said the agency received continued reports of bears getting into people’s homes in No Name after the first bear was relocated. Marzec isn’t certain if the second bear it moved was the one that has been causing further problems. However, once a bear is trapped, it must be marked, meaning it has one strike against it.
She said the bear, trapped July 7, hasn’t shown back up in the area.
n A bear that was getting into trash bins at the Glenwood Springs Community Center and River Meadows mobile home park, and visiting Veltus Park.
The DOW first tried to haze the animal out of town. Its pilot policy calls for driving bears from city parks. The bear, a yearling male of about 110 pounds, was moved June 30 and hasn’t returned.
n A bear of about 300 pounds that was seen crossing Grand Avenue in the middle of the day, and then getting into Dumpsters in the downtown area.
The DOW policy calls for removing bears from downtown during daytime hours.
The bear was spotted about 50 feet up a tree at 10th Street and Colorado Avenue. Because the bear was older, DOW officers didn’t think it would get into a trap, so they shot it with a tranquilizer while it was treed and tried to catch it with a tarp. Though it missed the tarp, a branch broke its fall, Marzec said.
The agency is working with Colorado State University on a Glenwood research project in which bears are being collared with a global positioning system unit and then tracked to see their feeding habits. The downtown bear was collared before being moved July 4 to “points west,” Marzec said.
“He is headed back toward town at this point,” she said.
The bears’ navigational instincts can work against them once they have been relocated. Like salmon, bears are good at finding their way back home, Marzec said.
“There’s something innately in their sense of direction and their physical makeup that allows them to do that,” she said.
She said it’s possible that a big boar chased the No Name bear away from its new home.
“Generally, when we release sub-adults they don’t come back. They establish new territory because they haven’t set one up yet,” she said.
Once bears learn to seek food in neighborhoods, it can be hard for them to break the habit. Marzec said part of the responsibility for the bears’ behavior falls on residents who fail to secure food sources.
Where bears are a problem, Marzec advises that people keep trash inside, and also keep windows and doors closed. Closing a screen door alone isn’t enough. The bears can smell food through the screen and easily break in.
She said she continues to receive reports of bears in No Name. The No Name Creek drainage is inviting to bears, Marzec said. She said officers have set another trap there in hopes of fitting another bear with a collar with a GPS unit. They then would try to haze it from the area so it would have no strikes against it, and a CSU grad student would study its movements.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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