Bears and critters emerging from hibernation
Black bears are emerging from hibernation in Colorado, and wildlife managers are advising people be ready.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said late last week that about 60 percent of the bears with tracking collars have left their dens. The agency said the bears that are still inside their dens are mostly sows with newborn cubs and should be out in the next few weeks.
CPW said a conservative estimate of the state’s bear population is 17,000 to 20,000.
Wildlife officials urge homeowners to avoid attracting hungry bears by keeping garbage secure, not leaving pet food outdoors and taking down bird feeders.
Glenwood Springs passed an ordinance requiring that trash containers be secured after a historically troublesome bear season in 2014, when the animals’ natural food sources were killed by a late freeze, driving bears to towns and lower elevations in search of food. Last summer, natural food sources were much more plentiful, and bear-human interaction was down from the year before, including in higher-elevation towns such as Aspen.
The black bear, Colorado’s only bear species, lives primarily west of Interstate 25, CPW said.
They prefer forested or tall, shrubland habitat but may move through open landscapes as they disperse and enter adulthood.
Bears are omnivores and primarily eat vegetation such as grasses, forbs, berries, acorns and seeds. They also eat insects or scavenge on carcasses, but can occasionally prey on newborn calves and fawns, beaver, marmots, deer, elk and even domestic livestock or agricultural products.
CPW offers these tips for outdoor recreationists:
• Make noise while walking or hiking to prevent surprising a bear. Clap, sing, talk loudly or attach a bell to your backpack.
• Travel in a group if possible.
• Pay attention to the surroundings and watch for bear signs, such as tracks or claw or bite marks on trees.
• Review CPW’s recommendation in an brochure at http://tinyurl.com/CPWbears.
Tips to prevent human/bear conflicts for homeowners include:
• Keep garbage in a well-secured enclosure and only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
• Take down all bird feeders — birds don’t need to be fed during the summer. Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts.
• Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside.
• Conduct a home audit to be sure you are not attracting bears to your property.
Bears are constantly on the move. Recreationists, residents and visitors are reminded to contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife or call 303-866-3437 to file a report of injured or problem wildlife.